§ 3.53 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations and for the Colonies (Mr. Duncan Sandys)
I beg to move.That the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland (Dissolution) Order in Council, 1963, a draft of which was laid before this House on 10th December, be approved.I invite the House to approve this draft Order in Council, which is made under the Rhodesia and Nyasaland Act of last July. Exactly three years ago to this day, the Federal Review Conference in London was indefinitely adjourned. Everyone who attended that conference recognised that the Federation had conferred great economic benefit on all the peoples of all three territories and that it would be a misfortune if this progress was arrested.
At the same time, everyone realised that the Federation could not survive unless genuine co-operation between Europeans and Africans could be established. Unhappily, that did not come about. In consequence, we had earlier this year to face the hard fact that two out of the three component territories were resolutely determined to withdraw from the Federation. Since there could be no question of holding it together permanently by force, steps had to be taken to bring the Federation to an end in an orderly manner.
At the Victoria Falls Conference, at which my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary presided so successfully, last June, the Governments of the Federation, of the three constituent territories, and Her Majesty's Government agreed to set up joint committees of officials to work out the detailed arrangements for the dissolution of the Federation. These committees worked exceedingly well. Except on one issue, on which the representatives of the Federal Government took a different view, the committees reached complete agreement on all the main questions which are dealt with in the draft Order.
The settlement set out in the Order has been accepted by the three territorial Governments and by the British Government. Whilst the Federal Government have expressed their agreement 1065 with almost everything in the Order, they have withheld their approval of the Order as a whole because certain differences still persist between the Federal Government and the other four Governments. I will refer to these matters later.
When one considers the wide range of issues to be resolved and their great complexity, the extent of the agreement achieved in this short time is remarkable. I should like to pay a warm tribute to the officials of all five Governments for the skill and efficiency with which they carried through these difficult negotiations. I also wish to express my appreciation of the helpfulness of the other four Governments. I am especially grateful to the Federal Government for placing their information and experience unreservedly at the disposal of the committees. But for this generous co-operation, the orderly dissolution of the Federation would have been infinitely more difficult.
The draft Order in Council, which is a long and, at first sight, rather formidable document, requires the affirmative approval of both Houses of Parliament. I wish to say straight away that I am sorry that Parliament has not had rather more time to consider it before our debate today. I well understand the views of hon. Members, but I should like to explain the position.
The decision of the Victoria Falls Conference to fix 31st December as the target date for dissolution set us a very tight timetable, tighter than was recognised at the time. The last reports from the committees in Salisbury were received only a fortnight ago. After that, the legal drafting had to be completed and the Order in Council printed. It was presented to Parliament the day it was received from the printers. In view of the Christmas Recess, any postponement of this debate would have involved delaying the dissolution of the Federation by at least six weeks, which, I am sure, nobody wants.
It may be convenient if I explain briefly the main provisions of the Order. As I go through it, I will endeavour to deal with as many as possible of the criticisms that have been made. Part I creates the necessary machinery for the dissolution of the Federation. Most of the assets and liabilities of the Federa- 1066 tion will either be allocated under the Order between the three successor Governments or will be distributed in accordance with the agreements reached in the last few months. There are, how over, certain assets and liabilities which, for one reason or another, cannot be distributed before the dissolution of the Federation. These are to be transferred to a special authority, to be known as the Liquidating Agency. This will be an executive body whose function wilt be to complete the winding up of the affairs of the Federation on the lines agreed between the Governments.
Provision is made in the Order for the continuance, with necessary modifications, of the exising laws of federation, subject, of course, to the right of the Legislatures of the three territories to amend them in accordance with their Constitutions. The Order also provides for the temporary continuance of certain Federal courts until they have disposed of the proceedings which are already in train.
The draft Order makes necessary adaptations in British Acts of Parliament and subordinate legislation where references to the Federation occur, but, in particular, it provides for the adaptation of the British Nationality Act in such manner that all Federal citizens who do not become Southern Rhodesian citizens will receive the citizenship of the United Kingdom and Colonies.
I come now to the question of the Federal public service. After exhaustive discussion, agreement was reached in September between the Federal Government, the Governments of the three territories and Her Majesty's Government on the arrangements for the future employment, retirement and pensions of all past and present officers of the Federal Government. In the view of Her Majesty's Government these arrangements constitute an equitable settlement which fairly takes account of the complicated factors involved.
All officials for whom there is no prospect of further employment will, in the first place, be invited to stay on, usually in their existing jobs, for a transitional period up to the end of May next year. This will enable the territories to carry on without interruption the duties which pass to them by the dissolution, and to reorganise the staffing 1067 of the services when it is known which officials wish to remain on.
Those officials who become redundant as a result of the dissolution will be compensated for the abolition of their office. Generally, this will take the form of an addition of one-third of their pension. If, however, an officer is offered continued pensionable employment in his home territory, but does not wish to accept it, he will be entitled to full earned pension, but not to the addition of one-third. It has been suggested that it is unfair to differentiate between officials in this way. But it really does not seem right that an official who is offered continuing employment on comparable terms and declines it should be treated as favourably as the man for whom no job is available.
In order to provide security for the terminal benefits of the pensions of Federal civil servants in future, it has been agreed between all five Governments concerned that the Federal Pension Fund will be maintained under independent trustees and administered by a new Pension Agency. The three territorial Governments and the British Government will share in making good any deficit in the Pension Fund to the extent necessary to ensure the payment of those benefits, and, as I have already explained, these arrangements have been fully agreed between all five Governments, including the Federal Government, who have throughout been specially mindful of the interests of their officials.
However, since the announcement of the scheme the Staff Association representing the Federal public servants has continued to claim that the Federal officials should be compensated as though they were members of Her Majesty's Overseas Civil Service. The British Government cannot accept this contention.
The Federal public service was recruited on a local basis. There was never any question of treating Federal officials as expatriate officers. This was absolutely clear to everyone who entered the Federal service. Those who transferred from the British Colonial Service were fully aware that they were leaving the British Government's service and entering the service of the 1068 Federal Government on local terms, based on the assumption that they were serving in their homeland and not serving overseas.
After considering the representations of the Staff Association, I am satisfied that there is not really any justification for reopening the inter-governmental agreement, and the five Governments including the Federal Government, all share this view. Nevertheless, the Staff Association has put forward certain proposals which, in its opinion, could be adopted without reopening the Agreement. These proposals will be considered in conjunction with the further detailed recommendations, which have now been received from the Inter-Governmental Committee in Salisbury. These deal with the treatment of hardship cases, the currency in which pensions are to be paid, and other related matters.
I come now to the arrangements for future collaboration between the territorial Governments in the running of common services.
The great Kariba hydro-electric scheme will continue to be operated and further developed under the joint ownership and control of the Northern and Southern Rhodesian Governments. Part III of the Order provides for the setting up of a higher authority for electric power, composed of two Ministers from each of the territories. It also establishes a new corporation, which will have much the same functions as those of the present Federal Power Board.
The Commonwealth Development Corporation, which is a major lender to the project, will be represented on the new Corporation. Broadly speaking, general policy and financial control will be exercised by the Governments through the higher authority, while the assets and liabilities of the Federal Power Board will be vested in the new Corporation.
The Central African Airways Corporation will continue to provide a common service for the whole area under the overall authority of the three territorial Governments. As in the case of the electric power board, there will be a higher authority and a Corporation with similar functions, and, once again, the Commonwealth Development Corporation will be represented.
1069 One of the more complicated questions which had to be resolved was that of the future of the Rhodesian railways, which serve Northern and Southern Rhodesia. I am sure that the House welcomed the recent announcement that the Governments of these two territories had agreed to continue the railways as a single undertaking under their joint ownership and control and to share equally the financial responsibility. The Order implements this agreement. Amongst other things, it establishes a Railways Court to help in the settlement of industrial disputes and, in this respect, the two Governments have agreed that there will be no break or change in the employment of existing staff and that the obligations to pensioners will not be affected.
The three Governments have also agreed to collaborate in agricultural research, including veterinary and tsetse research. This will enable important work now being undertaken by existing Federal research bodies to be continued. The three Governments recognise the importance of maintaining the valuable links with research institutions here in Britain. As evidence of this they have decided that the first chairman of the new research body in Central Africa will be appointed on the nomination of the British Agricultural Research Council.
Each of the three territories will, in due course, introduce its own currency. All the Governments are, however, agreed on the need for a smooth transition and on the importance of upholding the credit of the present currency. The existing Federal currency will meanwhile be maintained on the level of parity with sterling.
The Bank of Rhodesia and Nyasaland, the Federal Central Bank, will continue in existence for the time being to manage the Federal currency and to exercise other central bank functions, such as exchange control, until the three territories have set up separate banks of their own to take over these duties. This will be effected not later than 31st December, 1965.
I come now to the question of the Federal debt which, apart from short-term borrowings, amounts in all to about £246 million. This figure includes the loan for the Kariba hydro-electric 1070 project, amounting to £26 million, the liability for which will be shared equally between Northern and Southern Rhodesia. It also includes Federal loans raised for railway purposes, liability for which will also be shared equally between the two territories. It also includes certain territorial loans, amounting to about £90 million, which had been taken over by the Federal Government and which will now revert to the territorial Governments.
After deducting these loans, we are left with a balance of about £118 million of general funded debt. The three successor Governments have accepted liability for this balance in the following approximate proportions: Southern Rhodesia, 52 per cent.; Northern Rhodesia, 37 per cent.; Nyasaland, close on 11 per cent. These percentages represent the respective share of the Federal assets allocated to each territory. This seems to be the only practical way of apportioning liability.
The Government of Northern Rhodesia contended that, in calculating its liabilities, account should be taken of the fact that the large revenue derived from Northern Rhodesia in past years had made a net contribution to the other two territories and had in part been used to help finance Federal Government projects which are included among the assets now being distributed. However, I am glad to say that, after further consultations, the Northern Rhodesian Government while maintaining the validity of their contention, decided to accept the settlement agreed by the other Governments. They explained that they had decided to do this because they recognised the difficult situation which would be created by disagreement, and because of their concern to protect the interests of the creditors of the Federation. I wish to express my appreciation to the Government of Northern Rhodesia for the co-operative and responsible attitude which they have adopted in this matter.
In the case of internal debt, each territory will issue its own stock up to the amount of its share of the liability, and each stockholder will receive certificates from the three Governments in these proportions. It has not yet been decided whether the same procedure will 1071 be applied to external debt. The Order provides for the decision on this to be reached among the Governments before dissolution, but, in any case, the division of liability will be in the same proportions.
These arrangements have been strongly criticised in certain quarters. It has been contended that to apportion the Federal public debt in this way solely among the territories, will necessarily involve injury to the interests of the investor, and that the British Government should, therefore, in some way or another underwrite these liabilities. Two main arguments are advanced in support of this contention. First, it is said that the proposed arrangements radically alter the nature of the backing for the loan. Secondly, it is claimed that since the Federation is being dissolved by the British Parliament, the British Government have a duty to guarantee the Federal debt.
Those who put forward these arguments start from the assumption that the dissolution of the Federation was an isolated decision of policy by the British Government. That, of course, is quite incorrect. This Order in Council represents no more than a recognition of the fact that the Federation was already breaking up on its own. For some time past it had been clear that the overwhelming majority of the populations of Nyasaland and Rhodesia were firmly opposed to the continuance of the Federation. They had with growing persistence demanded the right to secede. Faced with this mounting opposition in the two Northern Territories, even staunch supporters of the Federation had begun to realise that it could not be held together much longer.
Thus, the question was not whether the Federation should be maintained, but rather whether it should be dissolved in an orderly manner, or left to fall apart on its own. The only sane course open to us was to face up to the realities of the situation and to bring the Federation to an end in a legal and peaceful manner, with as much agreement as possible. That is what we are doing.
Another wrong assumption is that, but for the dissolution of the Federation, the 1072 credit of the Federal Government would have remained strong and that, therefore, the security offered by the Federation as a whole would have been better than the security which will be offered by the three territories separately. If the stockholders wish to make a fair comparison, they should compare the security offered by the new proposals not with the credit of a federation which was a going concern with an assured future, but rather with the credit of a federation on the verge of disintegration.
§ Mr. Sandys
It is perfectly true.
If we were not in process of winding up the Federation in an orderly way, I have no doubt that the price of Federal stock would be standing a great deal lower today. Moreover, if the Federation had been left to break up without any prior arrangements for the assumption by the three successor States of liability for the Federal debt, the stock could well have become totally unsaleable. That was a prospect which would have faced the investors if we had allowed things to drift on. It seemed to us in the interests of stockholders that the first objective must be to secure from the sucessor Governments full acceptance of future responsibility for the Federal public debt.
We naturally considered the possibility of joint and several guarantees from the three Governments, but, as the Minister for the Treasury in Southern Rhodesia said in a recent speech, the whole concept of joint and several responsibility is incompatible with the principle of dissolution. He went on to say that no territorial Government could be expected to pledge its own revenues and assets to meet liabilities assumed by other territories. To do so would both weaken its credit worthiness and reduce its ability to borrow in the future. The Northern Rhodesian Government have also made it plain that they would regard joint and several responsibility as a reflection on the credit and good faith of all three territories.
The territorial Governments have accepted in full their respective shares 1073 of the Federal debt, each in proportion to its inheritance of the assets of the Federation, and they have made absolutely clear their determination to maintain their own financial credit by meeting their due obligations.
It is suggested that although the British Government have no legal obligation to guarantee this stock, they have a moral obligation to do so. Much has been made of the fact that the Bank of England acted as the issuing house for some of these loans. It is argued that this implied official Government backing, but anyone who is familiar with City procedure knows that it is common form for either the Bank of England or the Crown Agents to act in this way for Commonwealth loans raised in London. This has never been held to involve any guarantee by the Government. In any case, it should be pointed out that less than one-seventh of the Federal public debt was issued in London.
I must also make it clear that when these loans were raised, the prospectuses stated explicitly that they would carry no British Government guarantee. For example, I have with me the prospectus of 6 per cent. stock issued in 1959. It is headed, "Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland". In a paragraph headed "Security," it says:The Stock and interest thereon are charged upon and payable out of the general revenues and assets of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland, which alone are liable in respect of the Stock and the interest thereon. The Consolidated Fund of the United Kingdom and the Commissioners of Her Majesty's Treasury are not directly or indirectly liable or responsible for the payment of the Stock or the interest thereon, or for any matter relating thereto,That could hardly be more explicit. It has also been argued that, because certain loans obtained by the Federal Government from the World Bank were guaranteed by the British Government, similar treatment should be accorded to the rest of the Federal public debt. There is no validity in that argument. It is natural that loans which already carried a British Government guarantee should continue to do so. But there is no reason why loans which were raised without such guarantee should be underpinned by the British Government years later.
Having explained why the British Government do not recognise that they have an obligation to guarantee the 1074 Federal debt, I should like to emphasise that we shall continue to attach great importance to the discharge of their liabilities by the three territorial Governments. As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs indicated at the Victoria Falls Conference, the British Government, when considering the question of financial aid for these territories, will be prepared to take into account, among other factors, the burden of debt which they have assumed. That is a very important assurance to which insufficient attention has been paid.
In view of the interest in this subject I have dealt rather more fully with the question of the Federal public debt than with other parts of the Order. My right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary to the Treasury will wind up the debate, and will give any further explanations which may be asked for.
§ Mr. Donald Wade (Huddersfield, West)
In view of the last remarks of the right hon. Gentleman, about aid, would not it be simpler to say that the British Government will accept responsibility for the Federal debt in view of the fact that the British Government were responsible for setting up the Federation?
§ Mr. Sandys
To assume that these new countries, on taking over the responsibilities, are going to fall down on their liabilities, would I think undermine the whole of the credit of the three territories, and is uncalled for. If the hon. Gentleman and other hon. Members study what I have said with regard to our policy of aid to these territories they will see that that was an assurance of some importance.
It is with sadness that we are putting the official seal on the failure of a noble idea. I still firmly believe that the concept of the Federation was sound and that, however great the difficulties, it was right to try to bring about a true multi-racial partnership in Central Africa. If it had succeeded, it might well have provided an infectious example of inter-racial co-operation which could have had a far-reaching influence elsewhere in Africa and beyond.
This is not the moment to try to apportion blame for the disappointment of these high hopes. Let us rather, as 1075 our final act, express our thanks and sympathy to all those who in public life, or in their private vocations, did their best to make a success of this great enterprise.
At the same time, let us send our warm good wishes to the Governments and Parliaments of the three territories with whom responsibility for the future now rests. They are to be congratulated on the speed and harmonious manner in which they have agreed on the arrangements set out in this Order, and on their wise decision to maintain and operate together the common services which have been built up over the past years.
§ Mr. Stephen Swingler (Newcastle-under-Lyme)
Throughout his speech the right hon. Gentleman referred to agreements between the Governments concerned, and in the Order there are several references to things being settled by agreement which would be excluded from the purview of the Liquidating Agency, but I understand from an Answer given to me yesterday that there are no formal written agreements at all. When the right hon. Gentleman refers to agreements made, will he tell the House whether he is referring to agreements that are to be made before the date of dissolution itself, or are these agreements never to be committed to a formal text, or are they agreements made between the dissolution committee and one or other of the territorial Governments?
§ Mr. Sandys
What I am referring to are the reports of the Inter-Governmental Committees, which were unanimous in accepting the matters to which I referred, and the subsequent acceptance of the recommendations of these committees by all three territorial Governments, who are the successor States in this matter. I think that that makes the position clear.
The fact that the three territories are to continue these common services and work together in this way is a welcome sign that, notwithstanding the dissolution of the Federation, they recognise the importance of continuing collaboration. In fact, I hope that as time passes these territories, whose interests are so interwoven, will tend gradually of their own will to draw still closer together.
§ 4.27 p.m.
§ Mr. G. M. Thomson (Dundee, East)
The Secretary of State's speech was delivered in a suitably sombre tone, and it is, of course, the epilogue to one of the most melancholy episodes in the history of Conservative colonial policy. It is an episode that has lasted almost exactly for the duration of post-war Conservative Governments, and it is, perhaps, ironically appropriate that it should come to an end at this time.
I do not want unduly to look back over my shoulder at the history of the Federation, but I think that we are entitled to do so for a moment or two. The Conservative Party, for one thing, has the enviable habit of completely forgetting things it does not wish to remember. It has a gift for behaving as though embarrassing events had never occurred, or embarrassing Ministers had never served it.
It is appropriate that we should remind the Government that this Federation in Central Africa, for all its noble ideals, began with a blunder by a Conservative Government, and ends to day in a mess. The blunder did not lie in the idea of federation itself. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that it was a great concept. I think that everyone with a concern for Africa realises the benefits that could come from a close association of territories whose boundaries were rather artificially drawn in the Imperial times of the past. The right hon. Gentleman has recently returned from Kenya, and we are seeing happening there the kind of things which, in different circumstances, might have been going on in Central Africa.
The blunder was in believing that a form of federation designed to suit the wishes of the small European minority could be imposed against the wishes of the African majority. From the moment that the Labour Party was persuaded that the consent of the majority of the peoples of the territory could not be obtained, we opposed the scheme. As the right hon. Gentleman will remember, we opposed it in the House when the Bill came before us, but the Conservative Government bulldozed it through Parliament and then proceeded to do the same thing with it in Africa. There were eight years of imposing federation sometimes with force, as in the case 1077 of Nyasaland. Then, more recently, there have been four years of disengagement.
Even when the Government, in recent years, have been doing the right thing, it seems that they have so often done it in the wrong way. They did not reverse their policies frankly nor openly enough, nor decisively enough. This lack of frankness which has characterised Conservative policies toward Central Africa over the last four years still clings like a fog round the final formalities of winding up the Federation contained in the Order before us today.
It is all very well for the right hon. Gentleman to make the speech he has made today explaining the Order and we are grateful for a great deal of new information about it. But while he complained that the Order, at first sight, is formidable, I should say that, at first sight, it is formidable and, at second sight, it is incomprehensible. It is rather late in the day for the House to make up its mind about the Order simply on the basis of a speech by the Minister. This is an Order which cannot be amended or altered. It was thrust upon us six days ago and there is less than a fortnight before the Federation is due to disappear.
The House has been presented a fait accompli and so are the bondholders of the Federal debt, Federal civil servants and people whose future is bound up in the arrangements now before us. Over recent months while these vital discussions have gone on in Africa, there has been a conspiracy of silence about these arrangements. This reticence has been unfair, not only to bondholders and civil servants, but also to this House of Commons. The House gave the Government permission to proceed with the negotiations almost five months ago, in July. The right hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) will remember that he showed some reluctance about the proposal that we should allow an Order in Council to be presented during the long Recess with only the power to annul subsequent to the House reassembling.
In fact, since that date neither he nor any of us has been given very much information about the settlements arrived at. There ought to have been a White Paper setting out these agree- 1078 ments in detail so that all involved, including this House, should have had an opportunity to express their views and try to change the contents of this Order before it was finally laid before us.
We were quite astonished at the answers given in the last day or two, by the Minister in a Written Answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyne (Mr. Swingler) and in the House of Lords yesterday by the Minister of State, saying that there were no formal written agreements, but indicating, in another place yesterday, that the Government would consider putting in the Library such documents as there were about the arrangements which have been made. It is utterly indefensible for a Government to lay an Order of this importance before the House in the way they are doing and to say, on the eve of laying it, that they are only now prepared to consider giving the information which is essential for arriving at a balanced judgment on the contents of the Order.
It is this failure to be frank with the House—so much in keeping with the whole history of Conservative dealings with Central Africa—which is our first ground for complaint. For example, there is in the Order the concept of a Liquidating Agency. Despite the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, we are not given a great deal more clarity about some of the points which inevitably arise over the operation of this agency. It is to be in agency consisting of three civil servants from the three territories. It is true that it is to operate in a framework of governmental agreements—about which we know very little indeed—but it will have immense assets to dispose of and will be operating, according to paragraph 5, quite above the law.
How is this Agency to carry out its duties? It is to consist of three people. What is to be a quorum? Do all three need to be there to conduct business? Are two enough? Is it to take decisions by majority or do they have to be unanimous? There are many important questions about the way in which this Liquids ting Agency—a very unusual concept—is to carry out its operations. We ought to have had a chance to investigate and to question Ministers about this.
1079 There are the problems of Federal civil servants, to which the right hon. Gentleman drew attention. On the Second Reading of the Rhodesia and Nyasaland Bill, on 11th July, the Minister's predecessor, the then First Secretary, said, as reported in column 1429 of that day:Hon. Members will, perhaps, agree that this is the main human problem posed by the dissolution of the Federation. I think that we shall be judged by how we solve it. There are no fewer than 35,000 Federal civil servants of a variety of race—African, Asian and European—and their future lies in our hands."—[Official Report, 11th July, 1963; Vol. 680, c. 1429–30.]I do not think that any of us who have had representations from the Federal civil servants can feel very happy about the way in which this obligation has been fulfilled.
There are still too many grave questions outstanding in relation to the settlement of their case. There was a deputation of the Federal Public Service Association to the noble Lord the Minister of State as recently as 20th November. In the minutes of that meeting it is complained that there had not been at any time real discussions between the Federal Public Service Association and Committee A. It is complained that the association met Committee A once only and there was only a hearing with no discussion. When the Association attempted at one stage to ascertain the views of members of the Committee on certain points, the Association was accused of attempting to cross-examine them. As a process of consultation this does not seem a very happy or satisfactory method.
At the meeting on 20th November a number of important points remained outstanding. There was the question of in what currency pensions should be paid. On that vital matter, after the speech of the right hon. Gentleman this afternoon, we still do not know the answer. There is the question of guaranteeing the pensions. This also, after the meeting on 20th November, was left for further resolution. There was the matter of special payments to civil servants in cases of hardship. The Minister said that Her Majesty's Government were still waiting for the Federal Government's proposals. The Federal Government apparently have reservations about the Order at the moment. Have they 1080 come forward with proposals? It is very unfair for civil servants to be left in the air in this way.
The Federal Public Service Association at that meeting with the Minister of State was concerned about future citizenship rights. The Minister said that he could give the delegation no undertaking about this matter. Yet, on 22nd November, in the context of the Kenya Independence Bill, the Secretary of State gave the House an assurance of a general nature about British citizenship for people from Commonwealth countries. I presume that covered the case of Central African civil servants generally.
The House would like to know whether these proposals cover the anxieties of these public servants in Central Africa. It seems that the pall of secrecy which hangs over all these operations extends to communications between the Secretary of State and his own Minister of State. It was extremely odd that at that meeting the Minister of State could not give any information about what the Government had in mind on this difficult question of citizenship.
I do not underestimate the complexities of these negotiations in which five Governments have been involved. I sympathise with what the Minister said today about the time-table with which he was faced, but he was on particularly weak ground in using the exigencies of this time-table to justify not having come to the House of Commons at an earlier stage. The fact that the House of Commons has had so brief a period in which to deal with public business in the last few weeks was due to the action of the Prime Minister in postponing the resumption of the present Session.
I remember raising in the debate on 24th October, when the Opposition tried to resist this proposal, the very point that by this postponement we were abdicating our responsibilities towards the Federal civil servants in Central Africa and in regard to the many other problems which would be raised by dissolution. I expressed the fear then that one of the results of the postponement of the resumption of Parliament would be that we would have inadequate time to deal with these matters. In the event we have been proved right.
1081 I want to raise another aspect of pensions relating to a different group from the Federal public service. I refer to the workers on the Rhodesian railways and to the railway pensioners. I hope that their case will not be forgotten, overshadowed as it is by the larger problems of the bondholders and Federal civil servants themselves. In some ways the problems of the railway pensioners are stronger than those of either the bondholders or the civil servants. Both the bondholders and the civil servants, though one sympathises with their anxieties, volunteered to become either creditors or public servants of the Federation. They did so with some consciousness, presumably, of the risks and uncertainties involved.
But the railwaymen were employed by the Rhodesian railways before there was a Federation and they are going on being employed by them now that the Federation is being dissolved. We are glad to know that an agreement has been reached between Northern and Southern Rhodesia to continue to run the railways as a joint enterprise. The railway pensioners, like the civil servants, would like to have some British backing for their pension funds, which are largely invested in the railways themselves.
The Minister mentioned the case of the Treasury guarantees for the World Bank loans. The railway pensioners will be in a particularly unhappy position. The World Bank has made substantial loans to the Rhodesian railways, and these loans are being guaranteed by the Treasury in the light of the agreements that are normal with that kind of loan; but the pension fund money is not to be guaranteed by the Treasury at all. I ask the Secretary of State to have another look at this matter and see whether it is not one of the things which could be reopened.
The question of the future of the university at Salisbury is not mentioned in the Order. This, in my view, is one of the most important of the joint achievements of the Federation. It is a university which has set good standards of racial harmony. It is a university which has enjoyed the very substantial backing of the British taxpayer. What will happen about the university? Why is there not something about it in the Order? An Answer was given, again to 1082 my pertinacious Friend the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme, to the effect that at the moment it was still under negotiation by the Governments. I hope that when the Chief Secretary to the Treasury speaks he will be able to give us some information about this, because there is concern about this matter on both sides of the House.
The Minister devoted a great deal of time, as he was bound to do, to the position of the bondholders, both those in this country and those in Central Africa. They feel a very strong sense of grievance against the Government. I thought that the Minister was right in stating the legal position about these bonds. I would not like to say anything which would be held to be a reflection on the future creditworthiness of the independent territories which are now going their own way. I myself do not see why Northern Rhodesia, for instance, should be in any different position from Kenya, about which these doubts have not been expressed. The bondholders have some legitimate sense of grievance against the Government for the way they have handled this and for the bad judgment and miscalculation which they have shown over the whole period of dealing with these problems.
What the Government propose now, which is not mentioned in the Order and which, significantly, was not mentioned by the Secretary of State—that is, the passing of a substantial part of the Central African Air Force to Southern Rhodesia—will have caused the bondholders to feel some legitimate anxieties. I am astonished that the defence agreement is not mentioned specifically in the Order, apart from provisions about the Service men. I am even more astonished that the right hon. Gentleman did not feel obliged to say something about this to the House this afternoon. The Government have negotiated a defence agreement which will put an added and, in our view, unnecessary burden on the credit structures of the Central African Territories, apart from the other dangers it brings with it.
The Government's action in handing over most of the most powerful air force in Africa outside the Republic of South Africa to the European minority in Southern Rhodesia will impose a heavy burden on the territory's economy, which is already in difficulties through 1083 the break-up of the Federation. It will also, in due course, inject a most unfortunate arms race into the poorest part of Africa.
It seems to us to be a dangerous and quite wrong arrangement. I cannot, from this Bench, put on record too plainly that we dissent from this. It is curious and disturbing that this break-up of the defence forces is not dealt with openly in the Order. I understand that Southern Rhodesia is to be handed over a great deal more than she originally put into the pool of the Federal armed forces when the Federation was formed. I think that she is to have six squadrons of aircraft, including eight Alouette helicopters, which are powerful instruments for the imposition of unpopular policies of racial supremacy, if it is desired to use them for that purpose. She will also have Canberra bombers.
I fail to understand the actual processes of coming to this defence agreement. As far as I can find out about them, they are open to considerable objection by hon. Members in relation to the rights of the House of Commons. The then First Secretary, reporting on this on the Second Reading of the Rhodesia and Nyasaland Bill, said this:I therefore summoned a meeting of heads of delegations, outside the conference…and we reached an agreement which the conference endorsed."—[Official Report, 11th July, 1963; Vol. 680, c. 1432–33.]The head of the Northern Rhodesian delegation was, I think, the Governor. I think that the Nyasaland representative at that meeting of heads of delegations was also an expatriate civil servant, though I am open to correction on this. I gather that it was an all-European meeting about this crucial matter of the disposition of forces in this area of Central Africa. Not a single African Minister was present.
In the light of that, it is not surprising that later Mr. Kenneth Kaunda appears to have had second thoughts about the implications of this Agreement, which had been presented to the Victoria Falls Conference very much as a fait accompli, in the same way as this Order is being presented to the House of Commons today. Mr. Kaunda's second thoughts came when there was an announcement from a meeting of 1084 officials in Salisbury in October, from which certain details of the break-up emerged. I think that the meeting was in September, but the announcement was finally made publicly in October.
I ask hon. Members to consider the position in which the Government have put the House. We are being asked to agree to the transfer of arms on the basis of a Press communiqué in Salisbury from a meeting of officials there. This is a matter which ought to have been put properly before the House by ministerial statements so that we had a full chance to consider it and decide our attitudes to it. This is not a minor decision which could possibly be dealt with in this way. It is a decision about weapons which affect the whole balance of military power in Southern Africa. It is a decision which forced us at the United Nations into the position of being in flagrant disregard of a request of the General Assembly not to do precisely this. We had the embarrassment of using the veto at the Security Council on this question, and the humiliation of the vote recorded in the General Assembly, with only South Africa and Portugal supporting the position that we took up.
My noble Friend the Earl of Listowel raised this question yesterday in another place, and was told by the Government that there were no formal written agreements about this, but that the Minister would report to his right hon. Friend about the possibility of more information being given. It is intolerable that the House of Commons should be treated in this way. We should have these vital agreements laid out before us. There are many important questions about them that remain unanswered, and I hope that the Chief Secretary will try to deal with them.
Do we have a defence agreement—that is an agreement by Governments? If so, which Governments are involved? Is it purely an agreement between the Southern Rhodesian and the United Kingdom Government? Who is to pay for that part of the forces that goes to Southern Rhodesia? Is there any private understanding between Her Majesty's Government and the Southern Rhodesian Government that we will help them to meet the heavy cost of this heavy arms burden? I am told that some of 1085 the aircraft have not been fully paid for. What are the arrangements for meeting the credits involved? The House has a right to know about these matters.
Although the Government are refusing to give satisfactory guarantees to such people as bondholders, are they giving private assurances to the Southern Rhodesian Government about meeting the cost of these arms? What is the relationship of Her Majesty's Government to the use and control of these arms by the Southern Rhodesian Government in Central Africa? On 10th September, at the United Nations, our Permanent Representative, Sir Patrick Dean, said:Her Majesty's Government will retain control of the use of arms outside frontiers as long as our responsibility in relation to Southern Rhodesia is unchanged.We are entitled to know how the Government propose to exercise this control over the use of these arms outside the Southern Rhodesian frontiers. How can they tell the General Assembly, in one breath, that they will continue to exercise control over the use of these arms, and, in the next, say that they cannot do what the Assembly wants them to do in Southern Rhodesia because they have no control over what that country does now?
An extremely unsatisfactory position has been revealed, not through any overt announcements by the Government but simply by our trying to discover what is going on behind this curtain of reticence in these meetings in Central Africa. I hope that the Chief Secretary will tell us whether the Northern Rhodesian Ministers have agreed the defence aspects of this Order. The Secretary of State said that everybody agreed it except the Federal Government, which had certain reservations. Does this mean that the Northern Rhodesian Cabinet—the African Ministers, and not the officials—have approved the defence agreement as contained implicitly, if not explicitly, in this Order?
Can the Secretary of State, who is also Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations, tell us whether there was Commonwealth consultation about this disposal of arms to Southern Rhodesia before the agreement was reached? He, in particular, will per- 1086 haps remember the situation that arose, when the Labour Government were in office, over the evacuation of troops from the Suez Canal zone. Then the right hon. Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) and Lord Avon pressed the Labour Government to state whether, before taking this step, there had been Commonwealth consultation. In fact, Lord Attlee was able to assure the Conservative Opposition that there had been such consultation.
My recollection is that at that time a certain doctrine of defence consultation within the Commonwealth on these defence matters was enunciated and agreed by both sides of the House of Commons. Was consultation carried out in this case? Was there an effort to consult the other Commonwealth countries? Did the Secretary of State consult the Commonwealth Governments of Tanganyika or Uganda, both of whom are vitally concerned in this disposition of defence forces in Central Africa? I will gladly give way to the right hon. Gentleman if he would like to reply.
What do the Government have in mind in respect of the implications of this defence agreement in the High Commission Territories? Here are the last and in many ways the most difficult of our responsibilities in Southern Africa. These small territories now find themselves sandwiched between two groups of armed forces, both in the hands of European minorities.
Indeed, the matter is somewhat more complicated and embarrassing than that. Recently, a book was published by the Institute of Race Relations, written by William Gutteridge, a senior lecturer at the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst. It was entitled Armed Forces in New States. In this interesting volume he said that the majority of officers in the Army and Air Force of Southern Rhodesia have been recruited in Britain or in South Africa. I understand that some attempts have been made to discover what proportion of the Southern Rhodesian officer corps now belongs to a non-Commonwealth country, but so far the information has not been forthcoming.
What would happen if there was a crisis in relation to the High Commission Territories? Are the Government satis- 1087 fied that this arrangement for the disposition of forces in Southern Rhodesia is in the best interests of peaceful progress in Southern Africa? Are they telling the House that they can fulfil their obligations to the High Commission Territories on the basis of this defence agreement with the Southern Rhodesian Government?
By a coincidence, only a few days ago I was a member of a delegation from both sides of the House of Commons to a conference in Moscow. There we had an interview with Mr. Mikoyan, in the Kremlin. At that interview I sought to persuade him of the advantage of keeping the cold war right out of Africa by reaching a Great Powers agreement to ban any arms traffic to African territories and to allow the new African territories to concentrate not on the arms race but on building up economic welfare.
Mr. Mikoyan refused to consider this, and I got what I considered to be a rather dusty answer—almost as dusty as some of the answers I get from the Secretary of State. One ground he used for turning it down was that Britain was prepared to go on arming the European minorities in South Africa and Southern Rhodesia. This seems to be the wrong sort of approach to these admittedly very difficult and dangerous problems.
This situation, and so much else that is disagreeable in Central Africa, would be transformed if the European community in Southern Rhodesia were to come to democratic terms with their own overwhelming African majority. They are at present in a complete cul de sac. They aspire to a form of independence for a racial minority that is now utterly unacceptable to the modern world. This concept is now as abhorrent to the old Commonwealth countries, such as Canada, as it is to the new Afro-Asian Commonwealth.
If this small group of Europeans in Southern Rhodesia were to obtain their independence by one means or another they would find themselves excluded from the Commonwealth and from the United Nations—[Hon. Members: "Why?"] They would certainly be excluded from the United Nations, and their banned African nationalists would be recognised in many places as the legitimate Govern- 1088 ment of their territory. They would be alone in a hostile world, in the unconsoling company of South Africa and Portugal.
§ Mr. William Clark (Nottingham, South)
The hon. Member keeps talking about race relations. Does he think that the argument that he is propounding is doing anything to help race relations—his innuendo that any white man, wherever he may be in the world, is automatically against black men? This does not do anything for race relations, and it is about time that he stopped it.
§ Mr. Thomson
The hon. Member does me an injustice. I was not arguing that at all.
What I was arguing, and going on to expand on, was that the only hope of good race relations for the European minority in Southern Rhodesia is for them to come to democratic terms with the majority population in their country. I fully admit that there are Europeans in the European community in Southern Rhodesia who are struggling heroically—because politics are much more dangerous there than they are here—to try to bring this about. But it is the only way in which peaceful progress can still be made in that part of Africa.
§ Mr. Victor Goodhew (St. Albans)
Surely the hon. Gentleman will agree that it is only because the African nationalists refused to take part in a Constitution initially agreed by them that they are not taking part in the government of Southern Rhodesia today?
§ Mr. Thomson
The Constitution that the African nationalists were offered and negotiated by the Secretary of State, offered a vote to 1 per cent. of the majority population of Southern Rhodesia. Although Mr. Joshua Nkomo gave way to considerable pressure from the Secretary of State at that time, he almost immediately changed his mind when he came out of the conference chamber. Certainly there is no way to peaceful progress in Southern Rhodesia on the basis of that kind of unrepresentative form of multiracial representation.
§ Mr. Goodhew
Surely this is the sort of start that the African nationalists in Southern Rhodesia would want in 1089 order to prove their ability, and that they are capable of responsible government? They have thrown this chance away and decided that they would sooner fight unconstitutionally. Does the hon. Member support that?
§ Mr. Thomson
The hon. Gentleman knows as well as I do that the unconstitutional activity in Southern Rhodesia, the kind of activity which would be regarded as perfectly normal and constitutional here, is because of the extremely repressive laws passed by the European minority to defend their own privileges in Southern Rhodesia. I should have thought that even the hon. Member, who knows a great deal about Africa, would have realised by this time that if there is to be progress it is necessary to maintain a pace of political advance very much greater than that which Sir Edgar Whitehead and his colleagues, and Mr. Winston Field, were prepared to concede.
I ask Her Majesty's Government to state again today that they are still firmly determined not to concede independence to Southern Rhodesia before a democratic constitution is established there. I hope that they are prepared to use their now not inconsiderable bargaining power vigorously to persuade the Southern Rhodesian leaders to make political changes. I do not expect the European leaders in Southern Rhodesia to be able to make these changes overnight, but there is not a great deal of time left in respect of Africa and only if changes start taking place quickly is there any possibility of establishing a real foundation for racial harmony in Southern Rhodesia. Otherwise, the possibilities will become very limited indeed.
There are many countries in Africa and elsewhere which need our economic assistance and I hope that the Government will tell the Southern Rhodesians quite plainly that so long as they persist in their present undemocratic policies we are bound to give our help, where it is needed, to Governments based on democratic conceptions.
§ Mr. Thomson
We should not use our resources to bolster up a. minority régime in Southern Rhodesia. On the other hand, I think that Britain ought to be generous in her help to Southern 1090 Rhodesia, if the Europeans in positions of responsibility there are prepared to see the way in which history is going and to be generous in their own concessions to democracy.
Today, we are presented with an Order which we have no power to amend or alter. We do not wish to put ourselves in the position of appearing to oppose the dissolution of the Federation by voting against this Order. But, because the Government have put the House of Commons in the position of having to rubber stamp this Order, it does not mean that we consent to the arrangements about defence, or various other arrangements associated with the Order. The Government are ending federation as they began it—in an atmosphere of lack of frankness and a feeling that full information has not been giver, about agreements reached.
Despite this, I, of course, join with the Secretary of State in his final remarks. We all desire to wish well to the individual territories which must now pursue their own separate destinies. We hope that they will be able to agree in constructive co-operation and that all three territories will be able to establish that democracy and toleration which, tragically, eluded the Federation, but which may yet be possible in these countries in Central Africa.
§ 5.15 p.m.
§ Sir Charles Mott-Radclyffe (Windsor)
I agree with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State that in some respects this is ratter a sad day for hon. Members of this House when we compare, as did my right hon. Friend, the high hopes which we all entertained when the Federation was first set up with the position in which it is now. I think that it is a cause for considerable regret, though I quite admit that it was inevitable.
The Federation was a great design, based on economic partnership which, in turn, was based on a multi-racial experiment I would not—I do not suppose that any hon. Member on this side of the House would either—accept the strictures of the hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. G. M. Thomson) or his interpretation of history on the part that Conservative Ministers have played over the history of the Federation.
I do not think that either my right hon. Friend or his predecessors were 1091 entirely to blame. When history comes to be written I am not at all certain that a very great part of the blame will not rest on right hon. Gentlemen opposite, the right hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) and his predecessor in office, the right hon. Member for Wake-field (Mr. Creech Jones). I am not at all certain that it was not they who virtually strangled the child at birth.
We are, of course, in the process of transferring power in Africa. That is inevitable. But I think that it would be quite wrong to deceive ourselves, and, worse still, to try to deceive the public, into believing that in the process of the transferring of power we are creating democracy. We are not. In my view, once the central administrative control in Africa is withdrawn power fragmentates to the tribe or tribes, and that the tribe or tribes, individually or collectively, become what we in our western phraseology call "the party". But they are not the party, in the sense that we have political parties in this country or in western Europe. They are tribal power groups.
To expect tribal power groups in Africa, however well-meaning their leaders may be—I am not saying that they are not well-meaning—to work on a Westminster system of democratic government—with all its checks and balances—against the background of Africa seems to me to be completely and absolutely absurd. It is to expect the impossible. Certainly, let us transfer power. But do not let us pretend that in Africa we are in any way building up a system of democracy, because that would be a gross form of self-delusion.
I turn now to certain aspects of this Order. In the past we have had many acrimonious debates about Central Africa and most of the disputes have not been about the goal but about the pace. I wish today to talk about pace in a different context. There are certain aspects of this Order which suggests to me—and I suspect to some of my hon. Friends—an almost indecent haste. I see signs of the bulldozer being at work. My right hon. Friend has said some things about the Federal debt and he has done his best to allay certain fears. He has gone some way towards doing that, but my 1092 fears will not be allayed until I hear what the First Secretary has to say when he replies to the debate tonight.
The fact remains that the public were invited to invest money in the Federation, not in one of three territories but in the Federation as such. A number of prospectuses were issued in London over the names of the Government brokers. The Bank of England accepted payments from investors. I agree that this is not technically guaranteed and I agree that it is not technically sponsored by the British Government. None the less, investments were thought to be good enough to become trustee stock.
My right hon. Friend and his colleagues have changed the rules in the middle of the game without consulting the creditors. The debtors have ceased to exist. They are split into three, with one bearing 53 per cent., which is Southern Rhodesia, one bearing 37 per cent. Northern Rhodesia, and the other, Nyasaland, a 10 per cent. liability. Thus, the debtors have virtually ceased to exist, but will the creditors be given any power of option? And what happens if they do not opt for one of the three territories?
Suppose that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies and his right hon. Friend the First Secretary to the Treasury were not members of the Cabinet, but were distinguished members of City firms—as, indeed, they might no doubt have been had they not gone into politics. Had they been heads of firms in the City of London which had conducted this sort of operation in this sort of way I suspect that their relationship with my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary might well by now have been of a more formal nature. They might have been enjoying what I am told are excellent facilities in some of our open prisons. My right hon. Friend must realise that there is a lot of perfectly genuine disquiet felt about this business, not only about the way this matter has been handled but also surrounding the moral obligation involved.
Like the hon. Member for Dundee, East I am not at all happy about the position of Federal civil servants and their pensions. Some of them have lost their jobs through no fault of their own and more will lose their jobs. It is exceedingly important that their pensions 1093 should be secured. There is an equally strong case for considering the plight of the railway pensioners.
To be frank, I do not believe that we in this House can brush this off and say, "It will be all right on the night", because sometimes when that is said things are not all right on the night. If certain territories cannot service these debts then the debts will float about. If things float about, sooner or later they sink. At least, that is what I have been brought up to understand. Perhaps my physics are out of date. I seriously ask the First Secretary to deal with this matter fully when he replies to the debate.
I join with hon. Members in wishing the new territories—Southern Rhodesia, Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland—prosperity in their independence. However, it is time that one other thing was said from the back benches. I understand that Sir Roy Welensky is about to retire from politics. I do not know whether this is true. If it is, it should be said that he has been not only a controversial figure, but also a great character. He has dedicated his political life to the concept of federation and he has loved Britain and his connection with this country. Less honourable political epitaphs have been written about many less honourable men than he.
§ 5.15 p.m.
§ Mr. James Griffiths (Llanelly)
The Secretary of State said that this was a sad occasion for him. The winding up of a federation which, had it succeeded, we would this year be reviewing in accordance with its Constitution—for it was provided that not later than 10 years from the date upon which it was established this House, in association with the Federal and other Governments, would be reviewing the Federation and thinking about its future—is indeed a sad affair, because we must now think about its end; indeed, today we are drafting the instrument by which it will be liquidated.
I do not intend to speak for long, because much of what can be said was said in the debates 10 years ago, and it can all be read in the Official Report. However, I join with the Secretary of State in saying that I, too, was attracted from the beginning at the concept of a federation in the heart of Africa. Here were three territories close 1094 together, Southern Rhodesia, Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland, and in the heart of this area was one of the few rich veins of wealth in this poor Continent.
It is indeed a poor Continent; one-fifth of the land mass of the world with a population of only 200 million people, less than half the population of the Indian Continent. It is poor in resources. It will be difficult for all the new Governments who are emerging in Africa to build and sustain viable economies and to satisfy what, after all, is underneath and behind these winds of change—what President Harry Truman once explained as the revolution of expectations for the ordinary people there.
After independence comes the next stage of building viable economies and raising the standard of life. In this case it must be done against very great difficulties, for these are countries which largely still rely on agriculture at subsistence levels with some cash crops, and many of them do not have very rich resources to face the future.
What attracted me about Central Africa was that here, in this rich vein, was Nyasaland, the loveliest of the lot and one of the loveliest countries in Africa—the most thickly populated and the poorest. The income per head in Nyasaland is just under £20 per year. On becoming Malawi, independent, it will have its agriculture on which to depend. As far as we know, it will have no other resources. I remember the time when the Colonial Development Corporation found some coal near Lake Nyasa. As far as I know, the coal is still there, but the area is so far removed that these resources cannot be developed.
Particularly from the economic standpoint—and I will say more about the future later—there is everything to be said for these territories collaborating, and I hope that in a new form a sort of federation will develop. This is particularly important when one thinks of parts of Northern Rhodesia, some parts of Southern Rhodesia and almost the whole of Nyasaland which, even now, must be sustained, even for administration, by Her Majesty's Government.
I am all for and welcome movements towards political independence. I want such movements to be democratic, and 1095 I am indeed disturbed about something that happened in Africa, for I was shocked at the happenings in Ghana this week. If democracy is to be sustained, then it must mean rule by the majority and the will of the people. I was attracted by the idea—I am still attracted by it and still think it a valid one—of these three territories being linked, being linked also with the three territories in East Africa, into one whole federation.
I was satisfied, however, about one thing. I went to the territories and discussed the matter with the people there. I was satisfied from the beginning, as I am satisfied now, that the Federation would never succeed unless it carried with it the willing consent and co-operation of the people in the territories. I said so in the House and in Central Africa. I said so at the conference, and Lord Malvern, as he now is, said that I had turned the Victoria Falls Conference into a tea-party for the Africans, because I was certain from the beginning that the idea had to carry consent with it.
This experiment has failed for two reasons. It has failed, first, because it was imposed by the then Secretary of State and the Conservative Government, against the known wishes of the majority of Africans in all three territories. This cannot be denied. We on this side of the House said so at the time. The idea of federation never recovered from that. The second reason for failure is that throughout the ten years there has never been any real attempt to develop the reality of partnership.
This is my last word about the past. If I were to look back, I would say that there was one point, in particular, which sounded the death-knell of the Federation and for which the Government were responsible. I thought that the Federation had little chance from the beginning because it was imposed, but the death-knell was that the Government said that although they were imposing it against the wishes of the majority of Africans there was a safeguard, and this safeguard was broken. The Africans were safeguarded in the Constitution by the African Affairs Board. Any legislation which bore even 1096 the appearance of being discriminatory would have had to go to that Board. The Africans were told by Ministers here and in Central Africa, "This is your guarantee. This Board will ensure that you have fair play."
What happened? The first time that the Board were asked to pronounce on a matter, it pronounced a certain Bill as being discriminatory and condemned it as such, but the Secretary of State at the time turned the suggestion down and rejected the Board. It was all over from that moment. The Africans had been suspicious all along. Opposition to federation mounted all the time, and the Africans were able to say, "The safeguard which you designed for us has gone." The Government were responsible for both these things. I have said this before. It is all on the record. I agree with the Secretary of State that now there is nothing to do but to take the step which is taken in the Order in Council which we are now discussing.
I want to reinforce what my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, East (Mr. G. M. Thomson) has said. There is a great deal of feeling and disturbance about the dispersal of the forces between the three territories. I told the Secretary of State the other day that I had just had an opportunity of meeting Africans from all territories which are associated with us in the Commonwealth. There is deep concern about this, just as there is about South Africa. I am sorry that because of another engagement I was not here when the Secretary of State started his speech, but I gather that there was scarcely a reference in it to the dispersal of the forces. This is unfair to the House, for the House would be very unwise to pass the Order without a statement from the Secretary of State on the subject.
There is deep concern particularly about the position of the Air Force. The idea that we supply arms for defence against external forces and not for internal purposes, as is said about South Africa, is all poppycock. Nobody believes it. After this Order has been approved, in what circumstances can Southern Rhodesia, which is not independent and which is to receive the bulk of the Air Force, be permitted to use that force without the consent of Her Majesty's Government? When the 1097 Order has been passed, will there still be a veto in defence matters and in foreign affairs as there is under the existing Constitution?
I assume that the territories go back to the status quo. Agreements have been arrived at by which Nyasaland and Northern Rhodesia will become independent within the Commonwealth, but Southern Rhodesia will go back to the status which it has enjoyed since 1923 as a self-governing Colony. Under its status as denned in that Constitution, foreign affairs and defence were still the responsibility of Her Majesty's Government. If that is so now, has there been an agreement or an understanding with Southern Rhodesia that the use of these forces for defence is still subject to the approval of Her Majesty's Government? We have had no explanation so far on this point. We ought to have it.
I had the privilege recently, as did hon. Members on both sides of the House, of meeting representatives of the Federal Civil Service. There is not only deep anxiety but real anger among many of them that they have been unfairly treated This is one of the problems which I assume the Chief Secretary to the Treasury will speak about this evening. Many of these civil servants were persuaded to enter the Federal Civil Service. Many of them were colonial servants in the old Colonial Service, and Her Majesty's Government assisted in persuading them to go from the territorial Service to the Federal Service. They would not have gone without persuasion, and now they are deeply concerned about their position when the Federation is being liquidated. I hope that the Chief Secretary to the Treasury will realise that there is a great depth of feeling among these people that they have been let down. Indeed, one of the features in Africa at the moment is the depth of feeling among Europeans that the present Government have let them down. This is a feeling shared in the Civil Service and in the railway service.
As for Southern Rhodesia and its future, it would be a grave mistake to think of granting independence to Southern Rhodesia on the basis of its existing Constitution. This would be resented and might be resisted all over Africa. We have made enough mistakes 1098 in Central Africa. Do not let us make any more. I therefore urge the Government that they should not grant independence on this basis. It is no good the Europeans in Southern Rhodesia fighting against history. If I may quote the right hon. Member for Bromley (Mr. H. Macmillan), it is no good their fighting against the wind of change.
Some day, democratic majority rule must come in Southern Rhodesia, and it will be infinitely better for those to whom I refer, and for their children, if that day comes with their co-operation rather than in the face of their hostility. To a generation that has now been born and brought up there, I say that there is no future for them in a country in which the effective rule is in the hands of a minority against which the majority is all the time agitating and plotting.
There is only a future for them if they come to terms with history, and realise that nothing can stop the movement that is going on in Africa. It is far too powerful to resist; it is idle to resent it. If I were they, I would believe that I was serving the best interests of my country, myself and my children when living in Southern Rhodesia in now pledging myself to work towards the early attainment—I would not put a time to it—of democratic rule.
When we were discussing Cyprus, I suggested that we might get agreement0to end all that bloodshed if we agreed with the people of Cyprus that at the end of five years, during which time we would co-operate to bring about a peaceful transition, they would get what they wanted. The people got it in less than five years, but only after terrible bloodshed. It is far better now for the good people in Southern Rhodesia to recognise that democratic Government is bound to come, and to accept that fact. This march forward cannot be opposed.
I am glad to see that the Order provides for a continuation of some of the common services. There is everything to be gained by these three territories co-operating, building common services and, in the end, as I hope, enjoying democratic Government. We may then come back to the concept of a federation, but in a democratic concept which will result in a happier outcome than this one has had.
§ 5.33 p.m.
§ Mr. Patrick Wall (Haltemprice)
The right hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) spoke repeatedly of democratic Government in Africa but what does he mean? Does he really mean majority Government and one man, one vote? Can he tell me of one State in Africa that has a democratic Government according to our standards? The right hon. Gentleman has fallen into the pit fall mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Windsor (Sir C. Mott-Radcliffe); we cannot judge democracy in Africa by our own standards. That is to ask for the impossible—
§ Mr. J. Griffiths
I notice with interest that of late we have passed many independence Bills on that basis, but I have not noticed the hon. Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall) voting against them.
§ Mr. Wall
Because I never expected that there would be our form of democracy in Africa. One can accept the African form of democracy in countries that are homogeneous, but the difficulty is to accept an African form of democracy with quite different standards from our own in territories where there is a fairly sizeable European minority. In Africa, there are not the same standards of justice, public life, local government and so on. I do not blame them for that—they have not the financial support or the trained population to produce the same standards—butit is rather unfair to condemn a large European minority to live under such standards, which is what the right hon. Gentleman does in advocating one man, one vote in the four States of Southern Africa.
If he really believes in one man, one vote, he must also believe that in the United Nations there should be one State, one vote. That would mean that the General Assembly would have the power to compel its member States to accept majority decisions which, in turn, would mean that this country, and other European countries would be put in the same position vis-á-vis the world as he proposes to put Europeans vis-á-vis African majorities in their own territories, namely in a permanent and powerless minority.
I agreed with a great deal that was said by the hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. G. M. Thomson) when he was 1100 talking about the Order in Council, but not when he was talking about defence or the future of Southern Rhodesia. The last four years have shown a very unhappy relationship between Her Majesty's Government and the Government of the Federation, and it is quite clear that Her Majesty's Government wishes to be free of any blame for the failure of the Federation, and have arranged a rapid burial. That indicates a guilty conscience, and may mean unfair treatment of bond holders and the civil servants.
We are in grave danger of repeating the history of the 'thirties. The end of the Federation has brought the end of the multiracial experiment, and it is quite clear that for some years multi-racialism will have no place in Africa. The Government must now choose between black-ruled Africa and white-ruled Africa. It then has to face up to the problem of Southern Rhodesia. It then has to face the problem of economic sanctions against South Africa, and after that it has to consider military action against South Africa. This is the slippery slope we are now on, and, inevitably, we must face those decisions within, perhaps, the next two years.
The two main items in this Order deal with the Federal debt and the Federal Civil Service. The Government have a certain responsibility to the Federal stockholders, not only for reasons already-advanced on both sides of the House but also because Her Majesty's Government apparently rejected the Federal Government's suggestion of a conference to discuss the outstanding matters that should have been agreed, and have not been agreed. I understand that there has been agreement by the three Territorial Governments, but without direct Government-to-Government consultation with the Federal Government. I believe that this action will cause damage to the credit of Her Majesty's Government, and the prospect of raising future loans for other Commonwealth territories.
Let us look at the history of the Federal debt. I take the House back to 1953, when there was the conference to consider the setting up of the Federation. There were discussions here early this year on whether or not countries 1101 should have the right to secede from the Federation and, as a result of the discussion, the Government issued a White Paper, Cmd. 1948, in February. In the last page of the White Paper there is an extract of a statement made at the 1953 Conference by the then Commonwealth Secretary, Lord Swinton, who said:At a time when we all want everyone to concentrate on making federation a success and bringing the union into the most real partnership, it would be odd to invite people to look to secession, but there is one absolutely over-riding economic objection to this which rules it out from the very start. The Federation has got to raise loans and to raise them on federal assets and federal securities. Make no mistake about it—if you doubt my words ask any one in the City of London—federation could never raise a penny of money by loan if it was not known whether federation was to continue, and therefore whatever views you take about what I may call the moral side of the thing, there is an economic argument to which there can be no possible answer.That is why, when the Constitution of the Federation was drawn up, there was no provision for secession, and, on that basis of federal constitution, four loans were raised in London and one in New York. Secession has now been permitted, and the Federation is breaking up. Either the prospectus issued to the bond holders in 1953 and 1954 was a false one, or Her Majesty's Government bear a very definite and direct responsibility to the bondholders, because history has shown that the Federal experiment has failed.
We have all felt that there are two objections behind the hasty production of this Order in Council. First, very little publicity has been given to the Federal Government's objection to many of the items we are now discussing. Again I would call the attention of the House to a Command Paper, No. 2093, paragraph 57, where it talks about the Victoria Falls Conference. Talking about the decisions taken there, it states:…the United Kingdom Government should be in a position to complete and enact before the end of December, 1963, the legal instruments necessary to give effect to the decisions agreed upon by the governments who would be given an adequate opportunity of commenting on their proposed provisions.I quote the next paragraph from the Federal HANSARD of 10th December this year. The Federal Minister of Finance quoted the paragraph I have just 1102 referred to from the White Paper and went on to say this:There are now two vital and significant points in the words I have just read. First, the legal instruments referred to were to give effect to retch agreed decisions only. Secondly, all Governments will be given adequate opportunity to examine and comment on the proposed division of these instruments.I understand from further information in the Federal Hansard that a rough draft of this Order in Council was received in Salisbury on 1st December and the Federal Government were asked to make their remarks by the very latest on the 4th December. I understand that on the 2nd December the Federal Government requested Her Majesty's Government to hold a conference in Salisbury to consider matters which are virtually those now in dispute or suggested that they should send Ministers to London to discuss matters with Her Majesty's Government and this suggestion was rejected on the 7th of this month.
We know how speedily this Order in Council has been produced. It was printed exactly a week ago today. I would refer to a paper which came into my hands this afternoon, the Second Report from the Special Orders Committee of the House of Lords which, referring to this Order, states:The Committee had not time to study the Order in detail before their meeting; and there is not time to enable the Committee to consider at an adjourned meeting whether or not to make a Special Report. Such a Report if made would not be available early enough to be of practical use to the House.It goes on to say:The Committee, therefore, report as follows:—That in their opinion the provisions of the Order raise important questions of policy and principle: That the Order is not founded on precedent: That in the opinion of the Committee the Order cannot be passed by the House without special attention.The Committee was reporting on the Order which the House is now discussing. It underlines my point that there has been almost indecent speed to get this Order through the House.
I turn now to the two main matters that are still in dispute. First, there is the Federal stock. The External stock was issued in London, as my right hon. Friend said, through the agency of the Bank of England and the Government Broker. I understand that in the City it is the custom that an agency has 1103 continued responsibility throughout the life of the stock. That itself implies some responsibility, certainly a moral responsibility, on the part of Her Majesty's Government.
I now refer to the local stock. The currency of this stock is Federal currency, which is strong and closely linked with sterling. The new stock now to be given to the stockholders will be in three different currencies. Northern, Southern Rhodesia and Nyasaland, all have different currencies. The payment of interest and principal on the original stock was to be made in Salisbury. I imagine that it will now be made in three different capital cities. Under the original arrangement, stockholders had protection against taxation in at least two of the three territories in which new stockholders will have their holdings, and they had protection against territorial exchange control restrictions and there were no charges on remittance of funds. Now they have to look to three different countries not to impose special taxation or special exchange control restrictions. Therefore the bond holders are far worse off than they were when they originally invested in Federal Stock.
This Order springs out of a meeting of Committee A, a committee of civil servants, and during one of the meetings of this Committee I understand that the following statement was made. I hope that my right hon. Friend will take the opportunity of telling us that this statement is untrue. I hope that he can go so far as to say that it was not made. It has been talked about a lot in the City and in this House, and I think that he should have the opportunity of denying it categorically. It said that in Committee A representatives of the territorial Government said that their Governments would not accept joint and several liability for the debt and repayment. That my right hon. Friend referred to earlier on. It goes on to say representatives of the British Government stated that their Government would not join in any action designed to preserve the value of the investment. That is a very damaging statement and I would not have referred to it if it had not already been given so much currency in the City and other circles. I hope that my right hon. Friend will be able to deny it.
1104 The position now is that if any hon. Member held £100 of Federal stock he would in a few weeks time get £52 Southern Rhodesian stock, £37 Northern Rhodesian stock and £11 Nyasaland stock, and the security of these three separate stocks is quite different, from the original stock. Take the position of Nyasaland, as an example. Obviously, Nyasaland is the least viable of the three territories which made up the Federal partnership. I know that, during the past year Her Majesty's Government have been supporting Nyasaland to the tune of £6 million, and, of course, the Government will have to go on supporting Nyasaland because she is non-viable. Indeed, Nyasaland was originally included in the Federation because she was non-viable. Yet now Nyasaland is being taken out of the Federation and is being saddled with what I understand is a debt of about £15 million for this particular purpose, and that probably the total debt will be as much as £25 million.
This is unfair to Nyasaland and unfair also to the bondholders. The bondholders tell me that they have had no consultations with the Government about this matter except during the past few days. I hope that my right hon. Friend will appreciate the very great concern, even, I may say, anger, which is felt, in banking, insurance and financial circles, and bear in mind also that not only large corporations but many individuals, many pensions funds and many trustees are personally very concerned about what the House decides to do tonight in approving this Order in Council.
I come now to certain suggestions for action. I shall not contend that it would be sensible for Her Majesty's Government to guarantee the whole of this stock. Obviously, at this stage, that is impossible and, indeed, it would create a dangerous precedent for the future. Nevertheless, there is certain action which should be taken. First, will my right hon. Friend consider buying out the Nyasaland stock? This would not only be a good service to the bondholders, of course, but it would be a good service to Nyasaland itself. It would be much better to take that action now, removing a millstone from that country's neck, rather than go on giving Nyasaland so many millions of £s to service the stock.
1105 I am glad to know that an undertaking has now been given that Her Majesty's Government will do their best to see that the territorial Governments service these loan. I hope this will be published. That was to be the subject of my second suggestion.
Thirdly, is it possible to allow the holders of locally registered stock to have an option to take their stock payable in the currency of one territory? I appreciate the danger of this, that people might opt for Northern Rhodesia registered stock backed by copper or, possibly, might prefer Southern Rhodesia stock, but at least those companies which operate in only one territory will, quite naturally, wish to take their stock from that territory. It seems reasonable to allow them to do so. I ask my right hon. Friend to consider carefully those three points.
I fear that, unless further efforts are made, there will be a weakening of confidence in the financial integrity of Her Majesty's Government. Let us not forget that Her Majesty's Government advised people to invest in the Federation as late as July last year. It will be extremely difficult for the new Commonwealth countries to raise loans on the London market unless stockholders are given more assurance than they have had so far, and these Commonwealth countries will, therefore, be pushed back on to public funds. Obviously, they need both Government help from this country and help from private enterprise.
I come now to the position of the civil servants. I am glad to note from the Federal Hansard that it now seems likely that only 400 Federal civil servants will have no job to go to. At one time, it was estimated that there would be as many as 3,000. However, there are 1,162 who have refused to take jobs in the territories, and this means that, although the 400 will get their earned pension plus the one-third as laid down by the Order in Council, the 1,162 will get only their earned pension. I wonder whether we are living up to the First Secretary's statement, already quoted by the hon. Member for Dundee, East and whether we are really prepared to be judged by our actions and our generosity to these civil servants.
I will give an example. I take the case of an expatriate civil servant serving in Nyasaland, 38 years of age, with 1106 eight years' service, at a salary of £1,500 a year. Under the schemes available now, he will get a pension of £240 a year, plus compensation by lump sum which will vary, I understand, between £5,000 and £6,000, plus repatriation expenses. His Federal opposite number who is being dealt with under this Order in Council will get a pension of £240, plus one-third, which is only £67 a year or, if commuted, a princely lump sum of £406. This latter amount is to be compared with the £5,000 or £6,000 for the expatriate.
The disparity between the two is far too great, and it really cannot be called fair treatment. One has to consider also that a very large number of African civil servants will be affected. Their pension, under the terms of the Order in Council, will be something like £2 10s. a month. Moreover, in order to absorb Federal civil servants Southern Rhodesia has overloaded herself with white civil servants, and it will be extremely difficult for the African civil servants to get a reasonable ob in Southern Rhodesia.
I hope, therefore, that we shall hear something about the suggestion which, I believe, emanated from Committee A, that hardship cases should be given special consideration. I want my right hon. Friend to tell us something about that.
I shall not take up any more time of the House in discussing other points which arise out of the requests put to the Government by the civil servants. We know that people who have not accepted territorial jobs feel that they ought to have some compensation for loss of office as they have had in other territories. My right hon. Friend will know also how strongly the civil servants feel about the security of their pension funds. They would like them to be established in this country and that sterling should be the currency in which the pensions are administered. We know also of their worries about citizenship which have already been referred to.
There has been a rather unhappy interlude in the relations between the Federal Government and Her Majesty's Government since 1959 or 1960. I do not think that it reflects very much credit on Her Majesty's Government, although, of course, all the faults are 1107 far from being theirs. Can we, in this last debate in the House on this subject, have the record closed with dignity and a little generosity? I hope that my right hon. Friend will pay special attention to some of the points which I have made particularly with regard to the Federal bondholders and Federal civil servants.
§ 5.54 p.m.
§ Mr. J. J. Mendelson (Penistone)
The hon. Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall) concluded his speech with some references to the position of civil servants in the Federation which is now coming to an end. I begin by agreeing with him in the concern which he feels and the concern which has been reported from the Rhodesias on this subject. Whatever view one may take about the past politics of the people who were responsible for running the Federation, and whatever one might feel about the political future of the countries which are now to be on their own again—here, as the hon. Gentleman will not be surprised to learn, I disagree with the opinions which he expressed—there can be no doubt in the mind of anyone who has recently visited these countries about the deep concern and sense of unfairness felt by many of the civil servants.
Although the Government may have a fairly clear case on legalistic lines which they could establish in a court or by formal argument, that one cannot treat certain categories of civil servants as though they belonged to another category, it would be much better for them, in the momentous change which is now taking place, to think again and consider not so much in law but in equity the case which the civil servants are putting forward on their own behalf. When I visited Southern Rhodesia and Northern Rhodesia recently, I was quite convinced that this concern was genuine and that it deserved consideration.
I turn now to the way in which the debate has been prepared and to the kind of information which has been presented to the House. I very much regret that the Secretary of State has not decided to put much more information before the House in advance of the debate. On Friday, 13th December, 1108 the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies said in a Written Answer:The views of the Victoria Falls Conference on the defence forces are set out in Chapter VII of Command 2093. If the hon. Member has in mind the agreement reached on the allocation of the forces at the intergovernmental meeting on defence held in Salisbury in September, I am prepared, if the hon. Member so wishes, to arrange for the publication in HANSARD of the text of the agreed statement by Governments which was issued, following that meeting, on 11th October, 1963."—[Official Report, 13th December, 1963; Vol. 686, c. 130.]How absurd—"if the hon. Member so wishes". This is the kind of information and documentation which ought to have been put before the House of Commons not at the wish or request of an individual Member but as essential information in preparation for the debate. The Minister cannot claim that he has been working to a harrassed timetable. This sort of documentation could have been printed and put before the House long before the Order in Council was printed last week.
This would be a matter of less importance were it not for the fact that we are dealing here with one of the most explosive and serious political problems likely to arise in Central Africa. It was even worse that the Secretary of State, when he addressed the House today, made no reference to the allocation of armaments or, more particularly, to the allocation of sections of the Air Force. I urge the Chief Secretary to the Treasury to use whatever means of communication are at his disposal to let the Secretary of State know that we think that he ought to make a statement today.
The right hon. Gentleman ought to ask the leave of the House to speak again before the debate ends tonight. He is primarily responsible for the decision, and he ought to make a statement before we make up our minds whether to approve the Order or not. There will be no other opportunity to make a decision on the Order. As is well known, it cannot be amended in any detail. It is the duty of the Secretary of State to take the House further into his confidence.
I quite understand that the probable reason why the Chief Secretary has been asked to wind up the debate is that many important economic and financial 1109 questions are involved. I equally understand that he has probably been asked to wind up the debate because of the problems concerning civil servants to which hon. Members have referred. But this decision is one for which the Secretary of State must take a personal responsibility. The decisive meeting took place under the chairmanship of his predecessor, now the Foreign Secretary, who was in charge of these territories. If the Foreign Secretary had still been in charge of these territories we should have had the right to demand from him a statement on his responsibilities and activities at this conference. Now his successor is in a similar position, and he should tell us what happened in this connection.
We are dealing with a decision which formed the main topic of discussion in Government circles in Lusaka when I was there in the middle of October. It is well known to the Secretary of State, and it may be known to the Chief Secretary, that in the middle of October the Minister for Local Government, Mr. Kaunda, who is likely to be the future Prime Minister in the Government of Northern Rhodesia, sent a telegram to the Minister who was then responsible for these territories, now the Foreign Secretary, asking for a reconsideration of the allocation of the air force.
We are, therefore, considering something which is of great concern to the future Prime Minister of Northern Rhodesia and on which he has taken official action. We in the House of Commons are expected to approve of this Order in Council and this allocation without hearing from Her Majesty's Government what their attitude is to this telegram, or to the point of view of Mr. Kaunda, or to future policy concerning this air force. I suggest that this is treating the House of Commons in a fashion in which it should not be treated.
We are dealing with an allocation of forces, particularly concerning the air force, which was discussed at this private conference, and, as the Minister has made no statement about it, I think it important to introduce some details of it in the debate. One of the problems was that the air force had to be split up and an attempt had to be made by the Governments concerned to reach 1110 agreement. I wish to absolve the representative of Northern Rhodesia at this conference from the charge of having acted completely on his own. It was known in Lusaka that he had had consultations with members of the Northern Rhodesian Government, which at present is a coalition Government, and, so that we should not continue the debate on a false basis of fact, I should like to absolve him immediately from any such charge.
However, it is equally true that, when the discussions were taking place, some of the considerations before the people participating in the conference were of a technical character. One of them was whether some of the particularly advanced planes which were to be reallocated could be used from anywhere but in Southern Rhodesia. There are not the kind of airports in Northern Rhodesia or in the third territory from which some of them could take off and land.
Superimposed on this was the general political problem that there would be a tremendous shift of power to one of the territories, namely, Southern Rhodesia, if all the most advanced and important types of aircraft were allocated to her. When Mr. Kaunda sent his telegram to London—and we do not know the Government's attitude to it, and we should know it—he was not suggesting, as I understand it, that there should be a reallocation and that some of the particularly advanced planes which were to be allocated to Southern Rhodesia should be allocated to Northern Rhodesia or another territory. He was suggesting something quite different, and we have a right to demand an answer from Her Majesty's Government to this proposal.
As I understood it, Mr. Kaunda was suggesting that Her Majesty's Government should not hand over these planes to Southern Rhodesia but that they should limit the allocation to Southern Rhodesia to a certain number of planes, mainly transport planes and planes of a similar type, and a good many defence planes and that they should not hand over the planes particularly designed for offensive operations. I understood that he requested that they should be taken over by Her Majesty's Government. Moreover, as has been pointed out by 1111 my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, East, it is a fact that some of these planes have not yet been paid for. It is a fact that it is quite easy for Her Majesty's Government to call a halt and to stop some of these planes being allocated to the Southern Rhodesian Air Force.
We are dealing with the kind of aircraft which are regarded in expert circles as being of the most powerful kind in existence. For instance, in a recent professional evaluation of the kind of aircraft under discussion it was said:The Hunters are the latest type combining both interception and ground attack roles and these are about the most powerful single-engined aircraft on the African continent. They could, for instance, operate with two external fuel tanks, two heavy bombs and the full ammunition. They could, for instance, fly 500 statute miles, deliver two 1,000-lb. General Purpose bombs and fire 200 rounds of 30 mm. and return ".A similar evaluation is given of some of the other planes. It is therefore of great concern to some of the other countries on the African continent, and equally of concern to Northern Rhodesia, that agreement should be reached and that a reallocation should be made which does not worry them as to the future possibilities in case there should be disagreement.
I propose to say far more than I have said on this point later on hopes for agreement because I have not come back too pessimistic about the possibilities of advance in either Northern Rhodesia or Southern Rhodesia. I think that many Europeans in Southern Rhodesia have in the last two years or so changed their mind on a good many things about the future political possibilities in Southern Rhodesia. Certainly a remarkable improvement has occurred in Northern Rhodesia. I was greatly impressed by the considerable number of European businessmen who said to me in Lusaka that they hoped that there would be excellent co-operation with a future Government under the premiership of Mr. Kaunda. I can see that other hon. Members have had similar experiences and that they agree with this impression.
This has come about in a comparatively short time, because, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) said, there is a realisa- 1112 tion that history is moving on and that there are considerable possibilities for people of all colours and races to go on working successfully for themselves, their families and their country in Northern Rhodesia if there is a certain amount of reason and give and take on both sides. However, these same European businessmen have pointed out to me that anyone who finds it quite impossible to live and work under a Government composed largely of Africans will find no place in the new Northern Rhodesia. There are many Europeans who have no such built-in resistance, although there are a number who have.
These same Europeans pointed out to me that anyone who has been in a job far above his qualifications merely because of advantages of race cannot hope to find a similar position in future merely because of those advantages and that there will be much keener competition for positions than there has been in the past. I see nothing wrong with that, neither could those who put the point to me.
It is rather amusing now in Lusaka to find a good many businessmen reporting about the kind of social gatherings which they have attended with present and future members of the Government. They seem to work quite happily under the prospect of receiving encouragement as well as direction from an African Government after the next General Election. This is, in part, an answer to the comments which have been made from the benches opposite during this debate—I do not single out any hon. Member in particular—that the system of Westminster cannot be transplanted immediately to African countries. Nobody in his senses has ever suggested doing so. It has to be a process of evolution. One might just as well have said that the system of 1831 could not have been transplanted into the system of 1963. That is obvious and is one of the few points on which historians have always agreed.
What is happening in Northern Rhodesia today, and is being greeted with approval, I am glad to see, by hon. Members opposite, is the acceptance of the fundamental democratic principle of government and its implementation in co-operation with people, either European or African, who have the know-how and the willingness to 1113 work in Northern Rhodesia in the future. That can happen successfully only if the basic democratic principle is first accepted, because no matter what logic one might wish to put forward, no matter what reasons hon. Members opposite might hope to advance which sound logical to them, it is not possible to make a proper start in these countries unless the democratic principle is accepted first.
I can give examples of that from the rather sad state of affairs—although, here again, not entirely without hope for the future—that I found in Southern Rhodesia. To begin with—
§ Mr. Mendelson
This slogan of "One man, one vote," which is always thrown about as if to create difficulties in debate, originated in the Republic of South Africa, where I met it most frequently. I do not say that the hon. Member for Haltemprice picked it up there, but it is the sort of slogan which is thrown about.
The question causes me no difficulty and my answer is clear. Yes, we need a franchise which leads to a system of one man, one vote, but it should be possible to work out reasonable stages of reaching that aim. In my conversations recently with Mr. Kaunda in Lusaka, this presented no difficulty. As the hon. Member knows, it has presented no difficulty in recent discussions. We would, however, be foolish to assume that although there might be a number of reserved seats at one election or another, the whole tempo of the development does not clearly lead to one man, one vote and to a democratic system of franchise and government. That is foreseen.
I remember in talking in Lusaka, in October, to an ex-mayor who looked at the map with me and said, "Not long from now, we shall have a franchise which will be regarded as fully democratic." That is the direction—
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir William Anstruther-Gray)
Order. I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Member, but he seems to be dealing with a future con- 1114 stitution. The Order does not deal with any future constitution, although reference in general is perfectly in order during the debate.
§ Mr. Mendelson
I will change my direction slightly, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, to be in older, but I was trying to be courteous to an hon. Member who had put a precise question to me which, he thought, might be difficult for me. I wanted to prove that it did not embarrass me.
Coming to the future of one of the territories in the Federation—Southern Rhodesia—he reason why it is so important that we should have the feeling that things are developing in a direction of partnership was brought home to me by the rather sadder atmosphere—although, again, I repeat, not without hope—in Southern Rhodesia, where the cardinal principle of democracy and general acceptance of it for the future has not yet come about. Several hon. Members opposite have said that all sorts of illegal activities are going on in Southern Rhodesia. They should examine much more carefully the kind of activities which they might have in mind and of which they have seen reports.
I should like to quote an example, because it is one which I happened to witness, and examples of which one has personal experience are normally more convincing than those which are conveyed by hearsay or report. In Salisbury, there is a ban on political gatherings and only few occasions are permitted for political gathering by the African parties. On Sunday 20th October, the leader of the main African party, Mr. Joshua Nkomo, was to attend a birthday party at the home of one of his supporters. News of the birthday party spread quickly and within an hour and a half, a large gathering had assembled on his route.
As Mr. Nkomo was about to reach the garden of the house at which the party was to be held, it was estimated by the police that about 15,000 people had assembled. This is not the kind of thing that happens to Members of Parliament or political leaders in this country. We might be gratified if we attended a birthday party in our constituency and a few hundred people gathered to shake hands 1115 with us. It was estimated that about 15,000 people had gathered. The police intervened and asked them to disperse. They did so too slowly in the opinion of the police, and so police dogs were set upon the front line of the gathering. This shocked me deeply, and it would shock any hon. Member who might have seen it. It is the sort of thing we see on television that the police in Georgia do. I normally like to feel superior when I see that kind of thing, but I did not feel superior when it was done on 20th October in Salisbury. When one considers the importance of the political future of these territories, it is quite unnecessary that these things should happen.
Now that the Federation is coming to an end, it should be quite possible for reasonable men to come together to make decisions. The three countries will have to make their own decisions and to work out their own solutions. There are signs that people in Southern Rhodesia are willing to look again at the situation, but there are many—I fear, a majority—who are not prepared to do so. This is where the attitude of Her Majesty's Government becomes so supremely important.
There are in Southern Rhodesia a number of laws and a police and justice administration which make a mockery of justice and democracy. Not long ago, for example, one of the Africans had given evidence to a sub-committee of the United Nations. He returned home to Southern Rhodesia with the text of his speech in his pocket. At the frontier, he was searched and arrested. The document was taken from him and he was put on trial for having infringed one of the regulations; he had imported a statement which in Southern Rhodesia was regarded as illegal. It was a statement of what he had said in evidence at the United Nations. There was nothing to suggest that he had brought it in for any illegal purpose. For all I know, he might have taken it back to show his wife. At least, a man should be entitled to have in his pocket a copy of a statement which he has made to a committee of the United Nations. The man was arrested and put on trial.
Those are the sort of considerations that lead me to conclude that what is 1116 needed if the break-up of the Federation is not to lead to dangerous situations in Southern Rhodesia is a new start, in which people begin to accept the principle of majority rule and then start discussing with the leaders of the African parties the stages of transition. Quite a number of Europeans in Africa are prepared to accept this principle. Some of them, it is said, have recently had discussions with Mr. Winston Field. It is said that the majority of Mr. Field's supporters in Parliament are bitterly opposed to any such solution. Indeed, a contrast can be seen even between the Prime Minister, Mr. Field, and some of his supporters.
I took the occasion whilst in Salisbury of reading a number of the HANSARD reports of the Southern Rhodesian Parliament. I found that on one occasion, when an African speaker was making a speech in which he had difficulty with the language, a number of Mr. Winston Field's supporters jeered and laughed at him. That kind of spirit of racialism will not bring the progress that is needed in the country. From what I have heard, I absolve the Prime Minister, Mr. Field, from any such attitude, either in public or in private, but there is a majority of his supporters in Parliament who have a deeply rooted racialist attitude and are not prepared to consider new solutions to old problems.
On the other hand, however, it should be quite possible for us to use our influence in the right direction, and here I return to a point I have already made and which I repeat. It is that Her Majesty's Government should reconsider the decision on the allocation of the Air Force and insist with the Southern Rhodesian Government on new constitutional talks being initiated with the leaders of the two main parties in Southern Rhodesia. The Rev. Sithole and Mr. Nkomo are both convinced that what is needed is a new get-together to work out an advanced and broader Constitution.
The Secretary of State should tell the House whether the Government are prepared, in response to Mr. Kaunda's appeal in October, to reconsider the allocation of the Air Force and whether they would not agree that some of it should be taken under the sovereignty of the British Government and not 1117 allocated to any other country. That is requested by Mr. Kaunda in his letter in October. Would it not be better to have a cooling off period on this problem before further decisions, perhaps in a few years time?
Further, Her Majesty's Government should put all possible pressure on the Southern Rhodesian Government to get together the leaders of the majority parties to talk about the democratisation of the country. It is not true to say that the British Government have no serious powers in this respect. They have. I know that it is common in various circles, even including some of the official representatives of Her Majesty's Government in Southern Rhodesia, to shrug their shoulders and say, "There is not much we can do apart from urging them." But that is not the case. Many Europeans in Southern Rhodesia—residents of longstanding—have told me, "We do not want to be isolated; we do not want to follow a policy of adventurism and are opposed to any suggestion of taking independence for ourselves."
These are European spokesmen who are not politicians but belong to the business, community and to professional groups and who are oposed to a policy of adventurism. They have told me, "We would not allow the Government to have such a policy, but we do want to see that we are not forgotten and that there will be some proposals that will allow us, in some way, to continue to live our lives in the country to which we are accustomed." These are people who would not be without understanding if Her Majesty's Government put pressure on the Southern Rhodesian Government to recognise the necessity to revise the constitution.
An external as well as an internal problem is involved. My hon. Friend the Member for Dundee (Mr. G. M. Thomson) referred to the possible use of the Air Force allocation to Southern Rhodesia. African leaders outside Southern Rhodesia are very concerned about some of the contacts between members of Mr. Field's Government and Ministers of the Republic of South Africa. Some weeks ago a meeting took place between the Ministers of Justice of the two countries. It is assumed that they discussed a possible tightening up of 1118 the control of refugees from South Africa.
It is said in many circles that one of the policies that a more extreme Government of Southern Rhodesia might pursue in future would be that of military co-operation with South Africa. It is, therefore a matter of gravest concern to African countries all over the Continent—a concern which Her Majesty's Government should not ignore—that these planes are to be allocated to Southern Rhodesia, which will make that county, after South Africa, the most powerful military power on the Continent.
It is quite clear that this decision presented some difficulties to Her Majesty's Government, but it should be realised that, if there is to be any hope of cooling down the atmosphere, and if it is to be made clear that the Southern Rhodesian Government have no such intention to co-operate with South Africa, they should not at this stage insist on receiving these planes. There are no external enemies that the Government of Southern Rhodesia needs fear and therefore no justification for the size of bomber force involved here. I repeat my request for a statement on this matter.
My final point concerns the activities of Her Majesty's Government in future in all three Territories after break-up. Out there, many people tell one that they hope that there will be a place for many Europeans even after an African Government has taken over. I know that this is one of the arguments always to be found when we talk about democratic systems in these countries. It is, however, clear that, if the Government of Southern Rhodesia are not urged forward by Her Majesty's Government and do not, within the next few years, proceed to work out a system allowing the majority of the people fully to co-operate in Government and, within a reasonable time, to have the full knowledge that they are the governors of their own country, no one knows what solution might not be attempted by people who find themselves without hope.
Mr. Field, in a recent speech, referred to this point when he said:I realise that African majority Government will have to come one day but I hope that it will lot be in my lifetime.1119 But in that outlook lies disaster, and it is the essential task of Her Majesty's Government, by their policy and conduct, to make clear to Mr. Field that it is essential to bring about and to work for peaceful changes by peaceful means within the next few years.
Her Majesty's Government will be abdicating their responsibility if they confine themselves to statements that they will not grant independence to Southern Rhodesia unless and until the Constitution is changed and improved. The must go beyond that and urge the Southern Rhodesian Government to improve their machinery of justice and, in private conversations and by public appeal, to allow a certain amount of reform of the judicial system so that activities now regarded as illegal can become legal.
Her Majesty's Government must put pressure on the Southern Rhodesian Government to get together the leaders of majority opinion and to take the initiative in calling a new constitutional conference.
§ 6.28 p.m.
§ Colonel Sir Tufton Beamish (Lewes)
I am sure that Her Majesty's Government will have noticed that every hon. Member who has spoken in the debate so far, except, of course, for my right hon. Friend, has protested about the fact that there has been so little time to consider these very important questions.
I entirely agree with that view. It is most unfortunate that we were not presented with a White Paper in which reasoned arguments were given about these extremely important Commonwealth problems and that this Order was laid a few hours less than a week ago, containing so many policies and views which we have not had a chance adequately to consider.
In reinforcing that point of view, I point out that the Federal Government, without doubt, have the same opinion. I have been told by several stockholders that they received a letter from the Federal Treasurer, dated 19th November, asking holders of locally-registered Federal stock to reply within one week to a series of very important questions giving views about the allocation of stock.
The letter says that if no reply is received, it is to be assumed that the 1120 stockholders are satisfied with the proposals. I understand that it also apologises that the situation has been rushed in this way. That seems to emphasise that very important events are taking place with undue haste. I support what has been said about that and express the strong hope that it will not happen again.
I should like to refer to what my right hon. Friend said about the British Government's lack of responsibility for the dissolution of the Federation. We here, in this House, created the Federation, rightly or wrongly. I thought at the time that there was much to be said for it—though I am not being wise after the event when I say that I had serious doubts. There was much to be said for it economically and politically and no one could deny that the Government's motives were the worthiest motives imaginable and were based on their belief that non-racial policies must prevail.
The idealism of the Government—and that is what it was—was temporarily blown away by the wind of change. I said "temporarily" because I do not agree with everything that my hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall) said about multi-racial questions in these parts of Africa. He took too gloomy and over-simplified a view. I have always been a great believer in these policies, and I was one of the first Members of Parliament to join the Capricorn Society, which was meant to contribute to the peaceful development of a solution to African problems, but which, unhappily, did not contribute nearly as much as many of us had hoped.
But we must not forget when we are talking about these non-racial problems—and I prefer "non-racial" to "multiracial"—that in Tanganyika for instance, where I was a year ago, between 20,000 and 25,000 Europeans are living and working happily under an African Government to which they have adapted themselves with very little difficulty. I will not say anything now about Kenya, because I might be over-optimistic, but many of my friends in Kenya, among the older settlers and including farmers, feel that they can adapt themselves to an African majority. It is, naturally, very difficult, but we should not take too gloomy a view and we should try to see this 1121 change in its historical perspective and try to show patience and sympathy and understanding for the problems of the white man and the black man in these territories.
It was right to dissolve the Federation. The experiment has failed and we must recognise that, although I like to think that it is only temporarily and that there will be voluntary groupings of African countries with representative Governments for their own mutual benefit. But they will have to come together of their own consent. The Government's mistake was to try to rush matters, although from the worthiest motives, as I have said.
We created the Federation and we will dissolve it if we pass this Order in Council. We cannot shirk the responsibility which flows from those two actions, nor pretend that we do not have it. Nor can we pretend that we are not responsible for the inevitable side effects of those two actions. My right hon. Friend did less than justice to this aspect of the problem, and I am thinking particularly of the servicing and the eventual repayment of the external and locally registered loans.
My right hon. Friend made rather too much of the consequences which might flow from the underwriting of these loans by Her Majesty's Government. It was suggested that the credit worthiness of the territories concerned might be seriously impaired if it were made clear that the British Government had underwritten the loans. This is an argument which can be greatly exaggerated. It is well known that Nyasaland, for example, is getting a subvention from the British taxpayer of £6 million this year and that that subvention is likely to be carried forward into future years. It is not too far-fetched to suggest that without that subvention Nyasaland could not conceivably service the loans which are to be transferred to it. In effect, and in practice, we are underwriting that part of the debt which is being transferred to Nyasaland, and I do not see why we should not say so.
I was extremely glad that my right hon. Friend went as far as he did—although he could have gone further—in expressing the Government's views on this subject. He said that the British Government would continue to attach the 1122 greatest importance to the discharge of the financial responsibilities of the territories. That was a very important statement and we ought not to underestimate its significance. Equally important, he said that the Government would take account of the debt burdens of the territories concerned when considering future aid arrangements. I hope that I have correctly paraphrased what he said. That was a very important statement and I warmly welcome it.
I do not want to make too much of the Bank of England issue of these loans and the fact that the Government brokers underwrote them. Of course they did; they had to, because no one else could have done so. It follows from that that they were issued under British Government auspices. It is also true that institutional investors, banks, insurance companies, trustees and chairmen and others responsible for pension funds, took up these loans without any idea—any more than the Government had—that the Federation would be dissolved little more than a decade later. That was not in the prospectus. It could not have been because nobody knew that it would happen.
However, it did happen and it is very regrettable that mostly without being consulted, the stockholders now find that their holdings are arbitrarily and compulsorily transferred into territorial stocks. The way in which this has been handled is reprehensible, although it has been largely mitigated by what my right hon. Friend said. Had those who subscribed to these loans known that at any time in the future there would be an arbitrary transfer into the stocks of the three Territories, most of them would not have subscribed. I have spoken to some of the large investors who have told me quite clearly that they would not have subscribed.
Therefore, it is no good to make a comparison between the security which attaches to the Federal stock today and that which attaches to the territorial stocks to which these holdings are to be transferred. The right thing to do is to ask what these investors had a right to expect of the Federation when they made their investment. It is very important that my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary should add to what my right hon. Friend said on this subject. 1123 I have one or two questions about the servicing of this loan stock and the security which the holders feel that they are entitled to have.
My right hon. Friend will agree that it is a very important investment principle to be able to match assets and liabilities in like currency. For example, the chairman of a pension fund is bound to want to do that, and the chairman of such a fund in Northern Rhodesia, in the Copper belt, does not want to have foisted on him 11 per cent. of his holding in Nyasaland stock—nor in Southern Rhodesian stock, for that matter. It may not be because he has less confidence in Nyasaland or Southern Rhodesia, but simply that a financial principle is involved. I hope that some means can be found to enable holders to carry out certain switches.
I amplify that by saying that we should try to find some way in which holders of Federal stock can be enabled to hold stock of the territory of their residence. That would go part of the way towards allaying some of their anxieties. We should not forget that this is not just a matter of the big banks and insurance companies and other large investors. The people who are mainly concerned are those who get pensions from pension funds, thousands of small investors, and so on. It is important that we should not break that financial principle here.
My next point has been dealt with by the assurance given by my right hon. Friend at the beginning of the debate. I was going to ask the straightforward question whether Her Majesty's Government accepted some continuing interest in the servicing of this loan, and it has been made clear that they do have such an interest. But there is a risk of the non-payment of interest, or the non-payment of redemption sums, due to lack of sterling which could arise, although the territories are in the sterling area. I have heard this view expressed in the City. If the payment of interest, or repayment at the redemption rate, was blocked for any reason, holders of this stock would feel that they had been let down, and they might, in the circumstances, feel that the assurance given by my right hon. Friend would have some application. I hope that I am 1124 right in thinking that that may be the case.
It is also possible that in the years to come there may be some tax differential between the territories. If that turns out to be the case, it would also be inconsistent with what those who originally invested in the stock were led to believe would be the case. In the past, interest payments have been paid without deduction of Income Tax. This is very important indeed for pension funds, for charitable institutions, and so on, and holders would like an assurance that in future payments will be made by all three territories without deduction of Income Tax. To go back to the earlier point associated with that, the possibility of differential taxation between the territories would be inconsistent with what stockholders were originally led to believe would be the case.
My last point is a comparatively small one, though it is worth mentioning. There may be remittance costs between one territory and another. If there were, this would not seem fair or reasonable to stockholders who had no reason to expect this arbitrary division to be made.
Those are the points that I wished to raise. I assure my right hon. Friend—although I do not think that he needs any assuring—that very strong views are held about those questions in the City by the institutional investors and by individuals as well. If my right hon. Friend is able to clear up any of these anxieties, it will be a great help indeed.
§ 6.42 p.m.
§ Mr. A. Fenner Brockway (Eton and Slough)
I was a little surprised, but very happy, to find myself in agreement with the broad survey with which the hon. and gallant Member for Lewes (Sir T. Beamish) began his speech. I agree with his criticism of the Government for the utterly inadequate information they gave us before introducing this Order. I agree with his recognition of the historical advance of democracy in Africa, and with his appreciation that European populations in that continent are increasingly feeling that they are able to live under African Governments. I believe that the hon. and gallant Gentleman was accurate in that analysis, and I was glad to hear that he differed from the hon. Member 1125 for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall) on those issues, I shall refer later to some of the other matters raised by the hon. Gentleman.
Today, the curtain is falling on the second act of a drama which I think we all recognise is of momentous importance. It is important to the Europeans in Central Africa. It is important—I mention it because Asia is the territory of my birth—to the Asians in Central Africa, who outnumber the Europeans. It is of profound importance to the whole of the African population. It is of great significance from the point of view of what our relations are to be, not only with the territories in Central Africa, but with the peoples of the whole African continent.
The first act of this drama took place when the Central African Federation was established. That Federation failed not because of the principle of Federation. The African peoples are devoted to that principle. Those of us who have just returned from East Africa know the hope that exists for the establishment of a Federation between the East African territories.
When the legislation was introduced in this House for the setting up of the Federation of the Rhodesias and Nyasaland, the attitude of the Labour Opposition was that it would fail because it did not have the support of the great majority of the African people. We have been proved correct in that view, and right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Bench opposite cannot merely say today that they are sad that it has failed. They must recognise the great error in attempting to establish this Federation without the consent and support of the majority populations there. Right hon. Gentlemen have made an extraordinarily tragic mistake in their policy towards Central Africa, which has led to bitter results during the last eight years, and which has made much more difficult the task of constructing future societies in that area.
I do not want to go over the past in detail, but one of the most shocking events in recent times was what happened in Nyasaland after the Federation was established. The Secretary of State for the Colonies, in a most extraordinary speech, said that a conspiracy had been discovered in Nyasaland; that Dr. Banda and his colleagues planned to 1126 murder every European, every Asian, and many Africans. Because of that, a state of emegency was declared and Dr. Banda and other leaders were either exiled or imprisoned
We then lad the Devlin Report, which showed that the story of that conspiracy was unjustified; that the threat of violence was made by a few individuals; and that Dr. Banda and his party were completely innocent. That was one of the saddest things that happened from the point of view of the reputation of this country, and right hon. Gentlemen opposite who represent the Government cannot male up for that blunder merely by saying today that they are sad. They must accept responsibility for the tragedy which resulted from their policy.
Today, we come to the second act of the drama, and I wish to say a few words about matters which hon. Gentlemen opposite have raised as though they are the most important issues that we are discussing. Not one back bench speaker opposite has referred to the greatness of the event which is now taking place. The burden of their speeches has been the injustice to bondholders, and the injustice to those who contribute towards loans. I do not wish to minimise that aspect of the matter. I take the view which hon. Gentlemen opposite have expressed, that the Government have a responsibility to the investors in the Federal Fund.
They established the Federation; they are dissolving the Federation. They encouraged those investments and it is their duty to see that those investments are underwritten. I accept that; but, to devote the whole of one's speech, or the greater part of it, on this historic occasion to these grievances of British investors, indicates an attitude of mind towards these problems which looks at them from the point of the view of the City and not of the great populations concerned.
A matter on which I agree with hon. Members opposite, and which was first expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, East (Mr. G. M. Thomson) in the splendid speech he delivered from our Front Bench, is to plead that justice shall be done to our civil servants in this area. When we ask men and women to go to these terri- 1127 tories in the service of the British Government and of the Colonial Office, and when their periods of service are ended by a rapidity of events which has not been expected, surely responsibility lies upon the Government to see that they shall not suffer because of the service they have rendered. I hope very much that the Government will listen to the pleas which have been made from both sides of the House. I hope that not merely justice, but even generosity, will be shown to men and women who have served in that way in these territories.
Having dealt with those two points which, important as they be, are minor points in the whole picture we are now considering, I turn to some of the greater issues. It is not only a matter of Government responsibility for private investments. I suggest to the Government that they have some responsibility for the repayment of the loans which have been contracted under the Federal Government. I recognise that a large part of those loans is now reflected in permanent construction which will be of value to these territories. That is true of the Kariba Dam. It is true of railway construction. But, in addition to loans made for those particular purposes, there are general loans for which this Government ought to assume responsibility.
I remind the right hon. Gentleman that we now have in Nyasaland, and in Northern Rhodesia, Governments representing movements which were opposed from the beginning to the establishment of this Federation. It was the Government here who established it. Surely those Governments should not be asked to bear the whole weight of the loans which followed that establishment. I understand that the total loans which the Governments of the three territories are asked to bear amount to £269 million. Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland will be asked to bear £108 million of that cost.
We should now be thinking of the Governments of the Rhodesias and Nyasaland being engaged in the great task of social and economic construction. If the full weight of these loans is imposed upon them it will make the task of those Governments in their social construction very much more difficult. I hope, therefore, that the Government 1128 here will look again at this problem of loans to the separate Governments. I hope they will note that yesterday the Northern Rhodesian Government, still containing certain British officials, raised this matter. I hope something will be done to meet the heavy burdens placed upon them.
The second point of greater importance is the matter of the supply of the type of armed force which is now going to Southern Rhodesia. I was glad that my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, East, spoke so strongly on that matter. The whole House listened with great attention to the masterly speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Penistone (Mr. Mendelson), who has just returned from the Rhodesias. I do not think that it would be possible to exaggerate the feeling of anger there is among African communities that the Government of Southern Rhodesia—which we all recognise to be a minority Government of one race, which we all recognise must change in a democratic way in future, which we all recognise must, within a reasonable period, become a Government responsible to a majority of the people of Southern Rhodesia—that that temporary, minority, racial Government should be presented with the type of arms which have been granted to it under the agreement for the dissolution of the Federation. This disturbs many of us as, quite naturally, it disturbs the African populations.
I say this only in a sentence, Mr. Speaker, because I want to remain in order: this is parallel to the actions of the Government in continuing to supply arms to a minority white Government in the Republic of South Africa. We are now supplying arms to a minority white Government in the territory of Southern Rhodesia.
§ Mr. Ronald Bell (Buckinghamshire, South)
Is the implication from what the hon. Member has just said that we should not continue to supply arms to Southern Rhodesia?
§ Mr. Brockway
The hon. Member for Buckinghamshire, South (Mr. Ronald Bell) generally listens with acuteness. On this occasion he has not done so. I indicated in my remarks that my particular protest was against the type of arms.
§ Mr. Brockway
If the hon. Member wishes to pick out one sentence and take it from the context of the preceding statements, he may do that elsewhere, but he will not get away with it in this House. In relation to the character of the arms—which goes far beyond those for defence, which is regarded in Africa as a threat to offence against other peoples—the maintenance of them will be a very serious problem for Southern Rhodesia in the economic construction in which it will be engaged.
The last point I make, which I want to emphasise as strongly as possible, is that with the curtain coming down on the Federation we should be seeking to contribute policies which will allow the third act of this drama to have a happy ending. The Secretary of State and many hon. Members have just been in Kenya. I think that we were almost stunned by what we saw and learned there. Five years ago there were the atrocities and obscenities of Mau Mau. Five years ago there was an attitude of antagonism, which often reached hatred, between the European and African races. Two years ago the present Prime Minister of independent Kenya was described by the British Governor as a leader of darkness and death. Yet when we were in Kenya last week we found an attitude of cooperation and confidence between the races which we would never have believed possible two or three years ago.
I was glad to find that Mr. Michael Blundell has paid his tribute to the statesmanship of Mr. Kenyatta since he has become Prime Minister. We found a new confidence, a new trust, and a new hope among the Europeans who were frightened of the coming of a Government who were mostly African in character. We found this also amongst the Asian people. I was at a great meeting of 2,000 Asians the day following independence, where they declared that, in future, their loyalty would not be to India but to Kenya as Kenyans. That atmosphere is now to be found throughout the whole of Kenya.
It is our duty, as the curtain goes down on this second act, to try to contribute towards a third act in which similar racial co-operation will take 1130 place. I believe that this is possible. My plea would be especially to the European community in Southern Rhodesia to take note of what has happened in Kenya, to take note of the new racial co-operation there, to take note of how the views even of Europeans in Kenya have changed, and to recognise that this is the deepest climate of change which is now taking place throughout Africa. I appeal to them to recognise that the Asian and the African, the man of whatever colour or race, has the same potential qualities of human emergence, of human development, of human fulfilment, as they themselves possess.
I appeal to them to seek, in the spirit of what is now happening in Kenya, to build in Southern Rhodesia and throughout these territories the conditions on which a similar racial co-operation can take place.
§ 7.3 p.m.
§ Mr. William Clark (Nottingham, South)
I agree with other speakers that the story of federation is now coming to a sorry end. I do not intend to re-canvass the history or the faults on either side about the Federation. Suffice it to say that this idealistic plan fell on the rocks of nationalism and independence was demanded for two at least of the territories that have come out of the Federation. It is the British Government's responsibility to determine independence. This responsibility cannot be shirked. On the question of whether it is Northern Rhodesia, or Southern Rhodesia, or Nyasaland the British Government must take a decision, and I hope that each of the territories will be treated in the same fair way.
Hon. Members speak today in a vacuum, simply because we do not have the information which has gone towards the drafting of the Order. I join those hon. Members who have criticised the Government because this is so. I believe that the facts about the Federation and how it was progressing were known for so many months that the House could have been better informed.
I want to take up only one aspect on federation and on the Order. That is the financial side. I remind the House that the Prime Minister of the Federation, Sir Roy Welensky, many months 1131 ago, warned Parliament and the public generally that the financial implications of any dissolution of the Federation would present great problems to the Government, particularly as to the Federation loan—the bondholders, if you like. Nearly £250 million of the loan was taken over when the Federation was created. Since then there have been internal issues and external issues of Federation loan. The Order endeavours to deal with the whole conglomeration of Federation loan. I understand that the external debt of the Federation, excluding Kariba and the special items mentioned by the Secretary of State, amounts to £55 million. This has been divided as follows: Southern Rhodesia 52 per cent., Northern Rhodesia 37 per cent. and Nyasaland 11 per cent.
I want to say something about the new investors, by which I mean investors since the Federation was created. I leave out of account for the moment loans taken over when the Federation was started. This answers the criticism of the hon. Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Brockway). It is extremely important that any financial obligation of this Government is carried out in a way that maintains confidence, otherwise it is pensioners that will suffer if it is found that the value of the fund decreases. I impress upon the Government that these investors invested in a Federation comprised of three territories. They made one investment. They did not make an investment in three territories. It was one territory. This point could be overlooked. I do not think it has been sufficiently emphasised.
It has been argued that this money is in exactly the same position as money lent to Kenya or any other Commonwealth country. It is not. If a person lends money to Kenya and Kenya gets its independence, the money he has lent to Kenya is still owed by the Kenyan Government. Money lent by a person to the Federation is not owed to him by the Federation. It is owed to him by the three territories.
Let me take the example of loans taken over by the Federation. It may be that somebody had an investment of £1,000 which was taken over by the Federation. That investor still has 1132 £1,000 invested. What is the position now? He has to take so much in Southern Rhodesia, so much in Northern Rhodesia and so much in Nyasaland. Even the orginal investors are not getting a fair crack of the whip. The question of currency, which was referred to by my Friend the hon. Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall), again complicates the whole procedure.
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Lewes (Sir T. Beamish) emphasised the concern expressed in the City about this matter. Since it became public knowledge in the last three weeks that these bonds would be split into three, there has been a fall of ten points in practically every external loan of the Federation. I stress that there is virtually no market in these bonds; the price is pseudo. It cannot be for any other reason than that the investor is not happy about taking three pieces of three investments in place of the single investment he formerly had.
I want to draw the attention of the Chief Secretary to the fact that the Federation stock was trustee security. No doubt the three stocks issued in its stead will remain trustee security. But for how long? Presumably, if any of the territories withdrew from the Commonwealth its stock would cease to be trustee security, and trustees holding that stock would be put in the invidious position of selling the stock, which they did not want in the first place, at a deflated price. I cannot think that this would be anything but disastrous for the eventual price of any of the stock of the three territories.
Paragraph 12(7) says:The Government of each Territory, to the extent of the liability apportioned to it…shall establish a sinking fundin due course to repay these loans. Let us suppose that a territory does not establish a sinking fund. Who will enforce this provision? Further, sub-paragraph (8) provides that the sinking fund will be divided into the same proportions as I have mentioned before, namely, 52 per cent., 37 per cent. and 11 per cent. What is the extent of the sinking fund now? Could we not use some of its money to repay some of this loan? Some loans have been going on for eight years, although some have been only in force for three years. As 1133 there must be a sinking fund, why should not it be used in order to help to repay this investment?
I want to point out the vital importance of investment for the City of London and also for ordinary investors. In future it will be necessary for Governments of territories for which we now have responsibility to seek to raise money. If, through our action here, we let down investors, what hope shall we have of obtaining any investment in the developing countries of the Commonwealth? Hon. Members on both sides of the House must agree with this. If we kill the confidence of the City, or the ordinary investor, they will not be interested when we want to raise money in developing countries.
Some play has been made of the fact that this stock was issued under the auspices of the Bank of England and the British Government, and that a loss of confidence would be catastrophic. It has been suggested that the British Government should guarantee the repayment and servicing of the loan, but the argument against this has been that it would create a precedent. But the Newfoundland Act of 1933 did precisely that. The British Government of the day took over the responsibility of Newfoundland's debt and guaranteed its servicing and repayment.
Another argument has been put forward against the British Government's doing anything to allay the fears of these investors. It is said that if a guarantee, or even half a guarantee, were given it would lower the credit-worthiness of the territory concerned. I do not accept that argument. If it is correct, what are we to say about the machinations of the E.C.G.D.? On payment of a premium, that body will guarantee the payment of something that an industry has supplied. This is no reflection at all on the credit-worthiness of the purchaser. I do not agree that because we have some form of guarantee for the servicing of a debt it necessarily reduces the credit-worthiness of the country concerned.
In E.C.G.D., various countries have various gradings. I believe that they are graded A, B, C and D. I would like to know under which heading each of these three territories comes. If we accept the fact that the British Government has some sort of responsibility— 1134 perhaps not a legal one, but no doubt a moral one—I would have thought that we might be able to work out a formula whereby we could give an E.C.G.D. guarantee to investors in the various stocks. I am sorry that the new unit trust which was set up yesterday—the Crown Agents Unit Trust—is not available for the general public, because I am certain that the holders of Federal stock would be delighted to turn it over to the Crown Agents Unit Trust and receive its units in return. The financial implications behind this Order have constituted a very sorry story, but the British Government must maintain the highest financial integrity if we are to have a continuation of investment in our under-developed Commonwealth territories. The British Government have a very good record, but their colonial policy may turn out to be their Achilles heel.
I am sorry that the Order is being rushed through in this manner, although I realise the impracticability of voting against it. It is obvious that the ideal of Federation did not come off. If it had, everybody would have been delighted. It has not come off, and we must face the fact that it must be wound up. What I regret is that we are not allowed to move Amendments to Statutory Instruments. I am certain that if we were this debate would have been greatly prolonged by the moving of Amendments certainly by my hon. Friends and no doubt by hon. Members opposite.
I stress upon my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary that it is essential to maintain the good financial name of the British Government, and that if a formula could be worked out so that the ordinary investor could feel confident we should be helping relations in the future. We shall not be able to provide this help unless we show that, without any legal responsibility, the British Government are prepared to accept their moral obligations.
§ 7.18 p.m.
§ Mr. R. W. Sorensen (Leyton)
I hope that the hon. Member for Nottingham, South (Mr. W. Clark) will not think me critical or offensive if I say that he seemed to be speaking at the liquidation of an investment company rather than at the discussion of a matter of vital world concern and of deep human inter- 1135 est, which includes investment but is of far greater significance.
I appreciate, as I am sure all my hon. Friends do, the tremendous need to ensure confidence in these three territories, now that they are about to be dismembered from the Federation. I am sure that we all equally recognise—as do the thoughtful people of those territories—that there will be a tremendous need for increased investment from this and other countries in those territories. To that extent I agree with what the hon. Member said.
I hope that the Government will pay attention to the pleas made by him and by his hon. Friends, and will show that there is no need for lack of confidence in the Government, and that nothing will be done by them to undermine the confidence of investors in those three territories.
Having said that, may I turn briefly to the deeper underlying human issues to which very little reference was made by the hon. Member for Nottingham, South. That does not mean, I am sure, that the hon. Gentleman is not interested in them, but that he felt this an opportunity to deal with purely technical and financial matters rather than the more human and political matters. Expressions of regret have been frequent on one side of the House about the dissolution of the Federation and this has been so because of the profound disappointment both at the prospect of co-partnership or inter-partnership between various races coming to an end or taking another course and also because, no doubt, the economic prospects of the Federation are likely to be frustrated.
But we must recognise that while we in this House and in this country may feel profound regret at the passing of the Federation, that is not the mood of the indigenous African peoples. They are pleased, despite the fact that many of them appreciate that it may mean some economic disadvantage to them.
Why are they pleased? For the same reason that the people of Ireland were pleased to stand on their own feet and, in the end, to form their own republic in their own way, even though it might have had economic disadvantages. They are pleased for the same reason as the people of India were pleased when, des- 1136 pite any economic disadvantage, they could stand on their own feet and work out their own salvation. That is why I hope that there will not merely be expressions of gloom but of hope for the future now that the African peoples can start where they wanted to start at the rock bottom and build up their respective countries.
Inevitably, in the course of time, they will seek some kind of federation. I say that because, obviously, to have the Continent of Africa remain broken up into a number of units would be economically unviable and politically undesirable. At some time there will have to be a closer association of these areas which, after all were formed largely fortuitously. Looking back on the maps of the past we realise that at one time there were no places called Rhodesia and Nyasaland—or, indeed, Nigeria, Kenya or the Congo, or any of the other political and administrative areas. These were made by Europeans for the most part, and in saying that I am not being critical of the Europeans. But before the European cartographers got to work and made certain lines on maps and said that all within this area shall be named so-and-so, there were no specific territorial units at all.
To the wandering peoples there were areas roughly demarcated, but certainly not specific. Therefore, the time had to come when in Africa there had to be some lining up of the territories and marking out of areas so that it might be said that this or that was a specific territory and not merely an ambiguous one. I am not criticising history, because it is history—it is how things have happened. We have to recognise that it is we Europeans who made the map of Africa and drew the lines which determined whether peoples speaking the same tongue should be under one European flag or another.
That being so, one can understand the stage having been reached—and not merely in the Rhodesias or Nyasaland—when the successors of the peoples who have lived in Africa for generations say that they want to work out their own salvation. That is what Dr. Banda has said more than once. When it was pointed out to him that to take Nyasaland out of the Federation might mean grave hardship—as indeed it might—economically, and that the people were 1137 likely to lose heavily, his reply was, "So what? I want to start to be free and build up my own nation, whether or not it is economically more prosperous than before".
Is not that something to be appreciated? Is not it a worthy motive and precisely the feeling that we have in this country? We want to work out our own salvation, whatever the Russians or the Americans may say about the respective alleged superiority of their own economic systems. We say "Leave us alone to be free and to decide for ourselves what we shall do". We wish to decide whether to adopt portions of the American or the Russian systems or any other system. It may or may not be to our economic detriment, but that is of small significance compared with the fact that, as dignified human beings, the only way in which we can live is to decide for ourselves.
That is how I see the mood and outlook of the peoples of the Rhodesias and Nyasaland. They accept that there may be certain economic disadvantages. But, at the same time, they wish to do exactly as we wish to do, to decide for themselves, for good or ill, how they shall live and develop, and in the end how they shall fulfil their destinies. I admit that under the new regimes emerging in many parts of Africa it may well be that disasters may occur. For example, everyone profoundly regrets the continual unhappy turns in the road along which Mr. Nkrumah is marching. There are many who say that, in consequence, freedom should never have been extended to Ghana.
I ask this simple question. Does anyone propose, because a particular African nation may turn from the path of democracy, that we should withhold freedom from it? Earlier this afternoon the hon. Member for Windsor (Sir C. Mott-Radclyffe) said that the transfer of power did not guarantee democracy. I entirely agree. Of course it does not. But in the days before the power was transferred, was there democracy? Is there democracy, as we understand it, in Southern Rhodesia today? I am not now arguing whether democracy is appropriate. I am arguing a fact.
Was there democracy, as we know it, and is there democracy now in Southern Rhodesia? Did it exist in other parts of Africa? Of course not. On the con- 1138 trary, the argument of many in the past in this House was that the people of Africa were incompetent and unworthy of self-government. Some argued that one day they might move out of that state of incompetence and perhaps, after a long period of time, in the distant future, they might be capable of self-government. But meanwhile, the utmost that we would admit in this House was to agree as a concession to certain measures of infiltration and representation.
The same could be said of India. There a little representation was given as a kind of sop to satisfy the growing aspirations of the people. That was the argument, that it was as far as we could go at the moment, but later, if there was progress, a little more might be given. As I understand, that is how the Africans regard our attitude today. So we have to face the fact, as a fact of expediency if not of principle, that we cannot reverse the typhoon. It is not merely a wind of change which is blowing through Africa. It is a hurricane, a typhoon. It is irresistible and we have to recognise that and to come to terms with the situation. We can do that in two ways. We may look at it sourly and bitterly with enmity and hostility and do all we can to frustrate the progress of Africa. On the other hand, while being perfectly frank and honest, we can say that we will extend all the co-operation possible.
I agree, and we all recognise, that when new nations are emerging from servitude, and when many of their peoples are illiterate, mistakes are bound to occur. There are many things which we all sorely regret and which have occurred in many parts of the newly emerging free world. But just as we have had to work out our salvation so they must do the same. Sometimes it may mean that these peoples will depart from democracy, as we know it, for a long time. But I hope and believe—it is an act of faith on my part—that one day they will return, because democracy, as we know it, belongs to the human race. But if takes a long time for people to arrive at that stage and if they depart from it for a time we can all hope that they will return, and we must do all we can to encourage it.
On Sir Roy Welensky in particular rests a great responsibility. Although 1139 I have been critical of him in many respects I have great admiration for him. I know of his life, his background and the fact that at one time he was an ordinary workman like many hon. Members before they entered this House. The position of eminence to which he has risen reveals the potentialities of the ordinary people in his part of the world. If Sir Roy, who was at one time an engine driver, can rise to such eminence, we must accept that similar powers reside in thousands of the ordinary people of his country. I admire Sir Roy because he has developed the latent powers within him not merely for his own good, but as a demonstration of the capacity of the ordinary man.
I hope that he will have the magnanimity to say, "I have fought against the dissolution of the Federation. I fought for the Federation. I did all in my power to preserve it and I believe in it, but now that it has come to an end I will not be churlish. I will not sneak away and hide in a corner in a sultry, sulky fashion but I will give what capacity I have to this new emerging country." I believe that Sir Roy can say this. He can still be of great help and guidance. We should be prepared to give all the help we can, on the basis of equality and with magnanimity, to the African peoples.
I have already said that I believe that the African Federation will emerge again in the years to come. It will emerge when, at last, Africans have reached the stage when they realise that the fragmentation of their lands is undesirable from every standpoint. They will realise that a closer association, politically and economically, is to their advantage. That time will be reached when the peoples of other races are prepared to treat them as equals. That time is coming. It has come in other parts of Africa.
§ Mr. F. J. P. Lilley (Glasgow, Kelvingrove)
Can the hon. Gentleman say how many Africans were available to do this sort of work in Southern Rhodesia 73 years ago?
§ Mr. Sorensen
I get the implication of the hon. Gentleman's question. It is, 1140 of course, that 60 to 70 years ago most of the natives were at the crude, rudimentary stage.
§ Mr. Sorensen
As my hon. Friend says, the same could be applied to the working class of this country years ago. However, the hon. Member's question was an appropriate one and I will answer him.
§ Mr. Lilley
I was in Rhodesia at the time of its sixtieth anniversary. I was satisfied when I was told by the white people in Southern Rhodesia—and I was in that part of the world from 1947 to 1959—that the white people came to Southern Rhodesia led by a Scots gentleman by the name of Andrew Mickle. He led them there from Johannesburg. It took them six weeks to get there by cart, and, even then, butter cost them 6s. a lb. At that time there was not a native to be seen anywhere in the territory. Only wild animals were prevalent.
§ Mr. Sorensen
I appreciate what the hon. Gentleman is saying. I hope that he knows that some of us are not altogether ignorant of the histories of these countries. Although we have not had the opportunity to travel as widely as some, mainly because of our lack of finances, we have visited some parts of the world and, just as important, we have read a great deal about them. I have friends in Rhodesia and the hon. Gentleman's argument is familiar to me. His argument is that these people are inherently primitive and limited.
§ Mr. Lilley indicated dissent.
§ Mr. Sorensen
If not, then the capacity they have must be lying dormant, in which case the task at hand is to release that capacity for the good of the country. One way of doing this is to give them responsibility, for until people are given responsibility they do not develop their capacity because nothing is demanded of them.
I want to see nations free and people stand on their own feet. I have done my modest bit to help liberate the African and Asian peoples not only because they will then, when free, stand on their own feet with dignity but 1141 because, at that stage, they can face up to the facts of life. It is too often the case that when people are subservient they blame the governing Power for all the errors, policies and weaknesses they experience. One fact which the African peoples in Rhodesia and Nyasaland will come to realise more and more when they can no longer blame a governing Power is that there is an indigenous problem of poverty facing them and that that problem is not merely due to European exploitation. European exploitation can aggravate the problem, but the actual problem of indigenous poverty is worldwide.
Until there is a development of technology there cannot be the abundance of wealth that is necessary to develop human life. Only when people stand on their own feet, have to face the facts and so on, will they be able to appreciate the true facts of life and not be liable to blame the power dominating them. I hope that I have in some respects helped to educate the hon. Member for Glasgow, Kelvingrove (Mr. Lilley) on this point, just as he tried to educate me in certain respects.
I hope that hon. Members will not send out a message of gloom to the peoples of these three areas. On the contrary. Our message should be one of understanding and desire to co-operate. If Sir Roy Welensky and other Europeans in these territories, with all the advantages they have—knowing that Western technology is still at our command—can assure the peoples of Africa as they grow and accept their responsibilities that we will help them on a basis of equality to the utmost of our ability, that assurance will make a tremendous and lasting impression on the African mind.
§ 7.37 p.m.
§ Mr. F. M. Bennett (Torquay)
There was little with which I could quarrel in the remarks of the hon. Member for Leyton (Mr. Sorensen), who obviously spoke with great sincerity about the human problem arising out of what appears, on the face of it, to be a detailed and desiccated Order.
Sir Roy Welensky made a statement recently in which he said something very similar to the request just made to him by the hon. Member for Leyton. 1142 Too little publicity has been given to that statement. I read it. Sir Roy said that he still regretted the downfall of the Federation but that he wished to pay tribute to all concerned in the orderly fashion in which it had come to an end. He went on to make some extremely reasonable remarks. Although I agree that it was right to hope that Sir Roy would do the sort of things urged upon him by the hon. Member for Leyton, it should be made known, in view of the remarks that have been made about Sir Roy—who is a distinguished gentleman—in the past that he has already done exactly what has been asked of him. I hope, therefore, that we in the House of Commons can send him a warm vote of thanks for his efforts in the past, whatever positions he may have taken, and agree that although some controversy has occurred over him in days gone by, he is a great Commonwealth public servant and has done his best, whether or not we have agreed with his policies at various times, to serve his country.
It had originally been my intention again to raise the whole question of the Federat on, as many hon. Members have done, along with the future of the separate territories. Yet the more I have listened to he debate the more I have become convinced that, as we had a burial service some time ago for the Federation, probably not much more would be done either by regrets or urgings because from now on it will be the people in those territories who will largely shape their own future. Perhaps it is as well to concentrate our thoughts on the more practical aspects of the problems that have arisen.
Before doing so, I should like to add my one general remark, which is that we are witnessing a very sad occasion, not because a particular Federal form of Government has collapsed but because it is human failings over here and over there, white and African—and I do not seek to apportion blame tonight—which has led to the failure of an experiment in multi-racial and non-racial co-operation in Africa. At a time when the world seems to be moving away from ideologies in favour of conflicts and tensions between people of different colours, any failure of this kind is something which we ought to regret. As history develops I am sure that the 1143 collapse of the Federation will be seen as a landmark of failure in the attempts of people of different races to co-operate together. I am not trying to say that hon. Members opposite or Africans or Europeans out there are largely to blame, but this is a recorded fact of the failure of people of different races to work together for a common future.
In raising tonight once again the question of the Federal debt, which I feel bound to do, it is fair to say first that this is an occasion without precedent. The argument that Colonial Governments' stocks have been issued under the auspices of the Bank of England and that when these countries have become independent we have never made any attempt to make special efforts about their future security does not apply here, because in this case, and in this case alone, we virtually created the instrument that produced the investment and, having produced it as an act of this House we are destroying it as an act of this House. We are telling investors who went into a particular stock, that without their being consulted or their having a choice and whether they like it or not, they are now to have three different stocks. In ordinary private life I assure my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State that one would have a call from the Board of Trade, if nothing more, to inquire how he ran a private firm if that happened.
This, therefore, is an occasion without precedent as far as I know, but I fully accept the Government's assurances. I more than fully accept them, because I cannot see any possibility other than the Government adopting the attitude which they have adopted in this case—that they cannot guarantee the future of these stocks. Although the matter is without precedent, to guarantee the stock would be tantamount not to underwriting it but writing down the stocks in question and to insult grossly the countries concerned and make it more unlikely that they would meet their obligations. It seems to me that the Government have already gone some way to try to face a situation which is without precedent.
I ought to try to convince both sides of the House on this point. I have 1144 taken the trouble to go back to the Report of the Central Africa Conference, 1963. Page 9 of that White Paper contains a paragraph which I think is worth re-reading. It says:It was then that there would emerge the question whether any territory would be saddled with too heavy a debt burden, since it would be seen exactly what responsibilities would fall to it.I do not quite understand the English of the last part of that sentence, but perhaps I am not up to understanding White Papers. The paragraph went on:At that stage it would be for consideration between governments what means might be adopted to lighten the burden. The question whether the United Kingdom Government could and should help would have to be considered in the light of their general policies on overseas aid towards countries which showed need for assistance in the development of their economies. It would be in accordance with these policies for the United Kingdom Government to consider the need of a Commonwealth territory, within the limits of their resources and the calls upon them in the light of such territory's economic position as a whole—including of course its debt burden.It seems to me, therefore, that Her Majesty's Government went a fairly long way towards accepting that there was a special problem as long as last July.
Until HANSARD appears tomorrow, it is difficult to recall exactly what the Secretary of State said today. I therefore quote merely from my recollection. He reminded us of this undertaking at that time and he went on to say that the present Foreign Secretary, when considering the question of financial aid for these territories, would be prepared to take into account among other factors the burden of debt which they had assumed. It seems to me that not enough attention has been paid to that. Short of a guarantee it seems to me to show quite clearly to investors, big or little, that the Government are cognisant of a special problem here and will keep an eye on it, that they will try to make sure that these debts are met in the future and will keep the matter in the forefront of their minds when it comes to giving financial aid from this country to individual territories.
I hope that the Chief Secretary to the Treasury when he winds up the debate will help me and others a little more by spelling out even more exactly 1145 what this means. This is not just a matter of City interests being protected but a matter which will affect the future of people investing from now on in the emergent territories. We want London to go on being the centre for private finance for other countries. If it is thought in this country or, even more important, in the United States and elsewhere that people can be deluded into investing in one form of security and then find themselves saddled with another and the impression is created that Her Majesty's Government will not prove helpful in the matter it will be difficult to raise loans again on the London market, because in this as in so many other matters "once bitten, twice shy". It should also be remembered that this is not just a matter for large banks and insurance companies. Although it is not possible to find out the shareholdings exactly, the stocks are held by a large number of individuals and institutions, including pension funds.
It is important, therefore, that the Government should not let it be thought that they do not share the concern expressed on both sides of the House and in another place about the importance attached to the stability given to these securities by the auspices under which they were raised not being impugned in the future. I hope, therefore, that the Chief Secretary will realise how seriously we regard this and that he will say even more clearly exactly what the Government's attitude is to the problem. I am fairly satisfied, from the excerpts that I have read and what I understand from the Secretary of State, that all is well and that we cannot expect much more, but it would be beneficial to those outside the House if it were made abundantly clear that my interpretation of the moral obligation of Her Majesty's Government is correct.
§ 7.48 p.m.
§ Sir John Barlow (Middleton and Prestwich)
Reference has been made in several quarters this evening to Sir Roy Welensky. Many of those in the House who know him would not wish this occasion to pass without saying that we have looked upon him as a great robust Commonwealth statesman. He has contributed much to that part of Africa in the past and we all hope that he will have a great contribution to make in 1146 the future, Men with such a gift of leadership are only too rare nowadays and some of us feel that perhaps in future, after a little change and a rest, he may contribute a great deal to that part of the world to which he has already contributed so much.
Reference has also been made to the large number of speeches made from this side of the House about the Federal debt or the Rhodesian bonds. There is a very strong feeling in many quarters about the way in which this problem has been dealt with. When I first heard about it I largely agreed with much of the criticism which has been heard from this side of the House today.
The more I reflect on it, however, the less I agree with the back-bench criticism from this side of the Chamber. So many people suppose that because the Bank of England arranges for the issue of a loan, and because the Government broker may underwrite it and handle it, the loan starts life almost under a halo and that, while not definitely guaranteed by the Government, it is their special child and should be guarded by them. There is no such guarantee for this kind of loan. Many people suppose that because it is a trustee stock it is virtually a Government guaranteed stock, but that is a very different thing indeed.
Much has been said about its being a Federation loan originally and then, the Federation having been broken up, people being given a proportion of Northern Rhodesia, Southern Rhodesia and Nyasaland loan. If a federation does break up its debts have to be dealt with in some way, and this may be a good way of dealing with them. If we think of a corporation loan in this country made by a town that either increases or diminishes in size, we see a slight similarity between that position and the breaking up of the Federation. I have not gone deeply into this subject, but I can well imagine that, in the past, corporation loans in this country have suffered a fate rather similar to this one. The fact that the value of these loans has diminished to about £70 per cent.—that is a reduction of about 10 points in recent weeks—does not mean that the Government should make that reduction good in any way.
1147 The Government have some responsibility here, and cannot shirk it, but the Government should not adopt responsibilities greater than they really have. It is important that confidence should be maintained in the raising of this kind of loan. I suppose that London is the world centre for such loans, but some of these loans have come from New York and, perhaps, from other places, and if the British Government do not treat this situation reasonably investors here and abroad will lose confidence in our overseas loans. That will be deplorable, and none of us wants it. At the same time, I do not think that the Government should take on undue responsibilities for which they have not originally contracted.
Very few people outside the large institutions could, until the last few days, have said whether this was a Government-guaranteed loan or not. Even many normal investors could not, because they very likely would not have looked at the prospectus to see whether or not it contained those vital words. While the Government have some responsibility, I do not think that they have as much responsibility as many of my hon. Friends would seek to urge upon them, and, while we must keep confidence in this market for future loans, it would be very unwise to go as far as some of my hon. Friends have pressed the Government to go today.
I do not propose to go into the wider question of the breaking up of the Federation. It is, in some ways, very unfortunate. It started with tremendous possibilities, but things have not worked out as we had hoped. Many of us on this side know the country, from frequent visits. We have friends who have settled there, who have taken all they had to develop the country, and make their lives there. This has been a very sad and difficult time for them, but I hope that in the months and years to come they will be able to reorientate themselves, and continue to develop their ranches and their farms and their life in that country, and help their neighbours to develop likewise.
§ 7.55 p.m.
§ Sir Frank Soskice (Newport)
We come to the end of a debate which might, to a listener, seem to be centred 1148 on the rather dry text of a lengthy Order. It would be utterly unreal so to consider it. This is not just another instance of delegated legislation. This Order, 51 pages in length, marks something that is almost a turning point in the history of Central Africa. It clears out of the way an encumbrance to the further march of three territories—Southern Rhodesia, Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland—that were encompassed within the framework of the Federation. I want to underline that at the outset, as it has been underlined by many other speakers today.
"I-told-you-so" speeches are particularly irritating to those who are told, but it would be unrealistic to try to look at this Order without bearing in mind the background, which is that we are at the end of a monumental piece of folly which lies to the discredit of this Government. We are not discussing the principle of federation. Federation can, and, in future, in Africa no doubt will, bring enormous benefits to the federated countries, but we are now witnessing the consequences of the Government's folly in forcing federation on an unwilling African sentiment in the three territories, buttressing it with the African Affairs Board, designed to protect African interests in that very unnatural structure that the Government built up, and then, having buttressed it by that Board, deliberately undermining the Board's authority.
I thought that my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) very pithily and exactly summarised what the Government had done; they disregarded African opinion at the outset, and then undermined African confidence in the one thing that was inserted in the framework of the Federation to try to conciliate African confidence, by undermining the African Affairs Board. The Secretary of State comes here today, in effect, to ask the House to help him pick up the bits of this firmament that have fallen round him and his colleagues.
I do not want, because so many speakers have done it so admirably, to speak of the trends of African advance, but I want to join in a word of protest from these benches by saying that it does not really help the prospects for the future to make the kind of speeches, denigrating the new African countries, 1149 that some hon. Members opposite have made. Let us have confidence in those countries, extend to them our good will and give them our help, and not use such phrases as "they will sink down into a Kind of tribal fragmentation"—or whatever the phrase is that was used in that context. That does not do the least good. These are countries full of hope and aspiration, which have won independence. They will, no doubt, make mistakes; Ghana has made a big mistake, and I do not suppose that any hon. Member, whatever else he may think, would seek for a moment to try to whitewash that. Other African countries can, and will, make mistakes, but they have a great future before them. In this kind of debate, let us underline the prospects and not just pour gloom on the possibilities.
Having said that, I want to make a serious complaint against the Secretary of State. He knows perfectly well that we have to support him when he asks us to affirm this Order. He knows that, because he realises perfectly that we and every one in this House—though I am not so sure about another place—must regard it as an over-riding public interest that we should at long last put to sleep this foundering structure of the Federation. That is what we are doing tonight by giving the Secretary of State, in effect, a blank cheque when we affirm this Order. My complaint against him, his colleagues and the Chief Secretary is that they have kept us almost completely in the dark up to this debate as to what they were proposing to do in the Order and the solutions that they were proposing to suggest to the House.
The Order was laid before Parliament on 10th December, eleven days ago. It sets up an agency—a liquidating agency—which has, so far as I can understand, almost at its discretion, to liquidate an enormous mass of assets. It sets out no terms of guidance, or reference, which are to be followed by that agency. It deals with ex-civil servants. It does not apparently deal with the armed forces, but it does in substance deal with them. One of the grounds of my complaint against the Secretary of State is that when we study this Order it does not in any place deal with the air force which is appurtenant to the Federation. One may say confidently that it certainly does not— 1150 unless one is a purist and has a particularly legalistic mind and fastens upon paragraph 10(2) where one sees the words:Movable property of the Federation including currency, notes, coin, bonds, securities, money in any bank and other funds shall, unless otherwise provided by this Order or allocated to the Government of the Territory by agreement made before the dissolution of the Federation, vest on the dissolution in the Liquidating Agency.I am puzzled by the expression, "movable property of the Federation". I understand that it is the intention of the Government that the expression "movable property" shall include the aircraft forming part of the Air Force. I should have thought that any ordinary person when he reads the expression "movable property" would think of a grandfather's clock, a dining room table or a perambulator. No doubt an aircraft is movable and it moves very fast.
§ The Chief Secretary to the Treasury and Paymaster General (Mr. John Boyd-Carpenter)
It is not much use if it does not.
§ Sir F. Soskice
I quite agree. I can think of lots of things, such as the human genius and the flight of thought which are useless if they do not move about agitatedly and alight on one place after another. But I would hardly regard this as movable property.
We discover further, when we examine critically and suspiciously the text of this Order, that the expression "movable property" is to cover Canberra bomber aircraft, Hawker Hunter fighter aircraft and other aircraft, and, I suppose, helicopters as well, which form part of the Air Force of the Federation. It is very easy to call an aeroplane an aeroplane. It would have been a little more candid, and my hon. Friend who made an admirable speech at the outset of this debate accused the Secretary of State of lack of candour. I do not mean in a dishonest sense—everybody knows that the Secretary of State is a man of respectability and integrity—but I charge him with intellectual dishonesty.
When formulating the Order he could have put us on the alert to the fact that we were considering in its terms the Federation Air Force, and he could 1151 have avoided disguising the Air Force and aircraft that go to make it up by such an anodyne expression as "movable property". Most of us come to this debate not thinking that movable property conceals such things as aircraft. But what do we really know, with regard to the arrangements with which we are confronted when we consider the terms of the Order? We know roughly the history of what has taken place. There was the Victoria Falls Conference which reported in July of this year. Two committees were set up under it. I think that they continued their work until September this year. The Second Reading and remaining stages of the Dissolution Bill took place, again in July this year. What on earth has been happening since?
We know that there has apparently been a working committee dealing with the question of the allocation of the Armed Forces and the Air Force. Has it reported? I should like to know. The Chief Secretary is always a conscientious and courteous Minister, and I have no doubt that he has studied his brief with his usual thoroughness that we all associate with him. Has that committee reported? I can only think that it has. All that we have been able to discover is that apparently an Answer was given by the Secretary of State, dated 21st November last, in answer to a right hon. Friend of mine on this side of the House, and he gave certain dispositions which were intended. I should like to ask on what considerations has the conclusion been arrived at that the Canberra and the Hawker Hunter aircraft are to go to Southern Rhodesia, and that all the rest—transport aircraft—which is only a comparatively small segment of the Air Force, is to go to Northern Rhodesia and, I think, nothing to Nyasaland.
Surely, on any view, if one has regard to the prospects of collaboration, mutual confidence and a growing "working together" on the part of these Territories, it would seem, at any rate unexplained, without the considerations that must have actuated this decision, a major political blunder to take the bomber and fighter aircraft and to allocate them, which I understand means two-thirds at least of the Air Force, to Southern Rhodesia. We do not know 1152 why it was done. The Secretary of State has not told us why it was done. I do not know whether the Chief Secretary will be able to tell us what were the considerations in the minds of Ministers who arrived at this decision.
All we know is that we are confronted with the alternative of voting against this Order and so deferring bringing to an end the Central African Federation, or voting for it and swallowing hook, line and sinker these somewhat disastrous proposals with regard to the Air Force. I shall not join in an attack on Southern Rhodesia. Southern Rhodesia, as my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, East (Mr. G. M. Thomson) said in opening the debate, must realise that, in due course, it has to move towards representative government. It is a question of time. The pace has enormously accelerated in recent years, but can one really consider anything more likely to aggravate feeling, increase bitterness and retard co-operation between the three territories than for the white minority in Southern Rhodesia to be given these fighter and bomber aircraft which went up to make the Federation?
§ Sir F. Soskice
I have made such study as I have been able to of this history and I answer the hon. Member's question by saying that I have read the Federal Hansard of 16th October, 1963, which contains a record of a speech by Mr. Barrow, the Minister of Defence, and in the course of that speech he said:…the working Committee reported to the Governments. Its report was unanimous and the Governments concerned have accepted that Report. They have done so publicly.I have searched for a record of that public assent. I cannot find it. I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman can enlighten my ignorance about it. All I know is that the next day after that speech, on 17thOctober, 1963, I read that Mr. Kenneth Kaunda held a Press conference at which he said that he entirely dissociated himself from the view that Britain should give fighter and bomber aircraft to Southern Rhodesia.
Have they agreed or have they not? Why cannot we be told? Why was there 1153 not a White Paper to enlighten us on this question as to whether there was any agreement, an agreement between what members of the Government, and whether African opinion was properly represented? No doubt, Southern Rhodesia would have been very ready to agree to such a satisfactory arrangement from its point of view and, no doubt, Southern Rhodesia agreed. Clearly, Mr. Kenneth Kaunda did not agree. I do not know whether he had changed his mind. He may have been party to some agreement before, but, by 17th October, he is reported as being in violent disagreement with this proposal.
§ Mr. Ronald Bell
First, the right hon. and learned Gentleman said that Mr. Kaunda dissociated himself from that agreement. That is rather different from being in violent disagreement. Also, is there not an inference that apparently, apart from that dissociation, he would have been involved in a concurrence?
§ Sir F. Soskice
I belong to the same profession as the hon. Gentleman, and I know exactly the sort of questions that I can expect from him. I will read out the note which I made, and he will see what I made of it in my speech. This is my note:Mr. Kaunda held a Press Conference. He said Britain should not give fighter and bomber aircraft to Southern Rhodesia but should take over the Federal Air Force herself entirely and allow Northern Rhodesia and Southern Rhodesia each to build up its own Air Force from scratch.That seems to me to justify the comment which I made, that he was dissociating himself, and I should have thought that the adjective "violent" was not, in the circumstances, wholly extravagant to describe that expression of opinion.
I return to the point I was making. Incidentally, I am delighted to do so in the presence of the new Member, the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg), who I am glad to see present. He is not quite so new really; I remember him very well from earlier times. I put it as a ground of serious complaint against the Secretary of State that he has brought us here without information. He could have given us full information quite easily. He could have published a White Paper, and we could have come here intellectually equipped 1154 to discuss and pronounce upon the subject in full knowledge of the relevant circumstances. I lay that at the door of the right hon. Gentleman as a matter of serious complaint. He has treated us with discourtesy. He and his colleagues having already, shall I say, botched up the history which we are now considering, it was his duty, at long last, as an act of deathbed repentance, to try to be on his best behaviour when asking us to approve the Order. But he has not been.
One could go on for a long time discussing the content of the Order. I wish simply to put certain questions to the Chief Secretary, to which, I know, he will address himself. I do not wish to join in on one side or the other of the controversy about whether investors had bargained to have the credit of the British Government behind their investment when investing in Federal redeemable loan stock as listed in the Schedule to the Order. I picture to myself the elderly lady sitting in Bournemouth in a hotel designed for retired persons and asking herself what she has got for the £200 which she invested, say, back in 1956. She has got twice 52.120 per cent. of Southern Rhodesia stock, after what is described in the Order as a period of demonetisation in Southern Rhodesian currency, which may move up or down. She will be surprised and gratified to learn, if she has worked out the sum, that she has twice 37.127 per cent. of Northern Rhodesia stock, again after demonetisation in Northern Rhodesian currency, which may be quite different from Southern Rhodesian currency. Then, at long last her final solace will be to find that she has twice 10.753 per cent. of Nyasaland stock.
It may all be excellent stock, but whether that unfortunate lady thought that that was what she would get when she put down her £200 three or four years ago, whether she has the dimmest idea of what it means, or, indeed, whether she has the Einstein capacity to work out the arithmetical result of her investment, I really do not know.
I put this question to the Chief Secretary. Who on earth thought up those fractions, and on what basis were they worked out? Was anybody consulted? I gathered from the hon. Member for Nottingham, South (Mr. W. Clark) that 1155 very few people, if anyone, had been consulted. Who was consulted among the bondholders before it was proposed to divide the holdings into these quite extraordinary percentage sub-divisions? Were the three decimal places, which make the thing all the more difficult, really essential? I suppose that there must have been a great deal of consultation and working out. We could have had a White Paper about it so that we could consider the matter and pass some sort of judgment on it. Hon. Members on both sides have differed about whether the Government pledged their credit or not, and I do not say one way or the other, but I put this also to the discredit of the Government as another case in which we are completely uninformed about what took place.
I make exactly the same criticism with regard to the Liquidating Agency. By reference to Sections 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7, we find that the Liquidating Agency is a quite formidable body. It has the task, put in three lines, of winding upthe affairs of the Federation and, subject to the provisions of this Order, disposing of its assets and liabilities".Nowhere in the Order can one find the principle upon which it is to do it. It is left to the untramelled judgment of the Liquidating Agency, subject to this, that in Section 6(2,a), it is to apportion and distribute those assetsas may be agreed between the Governments of the Territories".Has there been any agreement on the basis of distribution? If so, when was it arrived at? All we know is that the Victoria Falls Conference resulted in the setting up of Committees A and B. We know also that they worked throughout the summer. The Secretary of State tells us that they reported about a fortnight ago. What are the terms of their reports? If they reported a fortnight ago, it is wholly misleading, if their report is to be followed, to define the terms of reference of the Liquidating Agency as beingto apportion and distributethe assets of the Federationas may be agreed between the Governments of the Territories".Either agreement has been worked out, in which case we should have been informed of it and those words are completely inaccurate to describe the situation, or no agreement has yet been worked 1156 out and we are being asked by the Secretary of State to give him a blank cheque to do what he likes, in effect, with this Order. There is no agreement, as far as I know, on how the assets are to be distributed, and no agreement with regard to the fractions. At least, we have not been told.
I say again, therefore—I apologise if I am guilty of tautology—that we are brought here in almost complete ignorance of what has gone on behind the scenes, and we are called upon to vote for the Order, because, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, if we do not vote for it we prolong the existence of the Federation.
I turn now to one other subject. I have seen a note of the meeting which took place, I think, on 20th November this year, between the association which represents the civil servants of the Federation and the Duke of Devonshire, the Minister of State. My hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, East read a passage from those minutes which shows that, so far as that association is concerned, it has had next to no opportunity of putting forward its further views or supplementing its case by questions and such pressure as can be adduced in argument to either Committee A or Committee B. The civil servants' association complains of many of the decisions taken, and also that a number of matters are left open and undecided. Attention was called to them by my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, East. May I ask for answers on behalf of the civil servants? When I say that, I do not mean that I am instructed to speak for them, but I speak out of sympathy for them because I assume that they would, naturally, like to know the answers.
First, what constitutes hardship? We have had no answer to that so far. These people are left wondering. What is the hardship machinery? All that we can find is paragraph 38 of the Second Schedule, which tells us nothing. It does not say who is to decide whether there is hardship in the case of any individual civil servant, what is to be regarded as hardship, which persons are to decide it and how the matter is to be brought before them. The next question is: in what currency is their pension to be paid? That was referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for 1157 Dundee, East and I should like an answer to it, although I speak simply in order to pick up the threads of the questioning to which we should like to subject the Government.
What puzzles me and what I should like the Chief Secretary to enlighten us about is this. If one turns to section 26 in order to find out the provisions with regard to the appointment of the trustees for the pension fund and in whom the pension is to vest one finds what seems to be a most extraordinary position, and I hope that the Chief Secretary will give us some information about it. The original trustees are to be appointed by the Governments of the United Kingdom, the Federation, Southern Rhodesia, Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland jointly. Under paragraph 5 of the same section,The Governments of the Territories may at any time jointly appoint new trustees of the Fund.If the British Government are to be in at the beginning and have the responsibility of appointing the first trustees, why should they not remain under that responsibility? Why should they wash their hands of it and become wholly divorced from the situation?
My hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, East read out the rather moving and touching remarks made by the present Foreign Secretary when he was speaking about the importance of this human element with regard to the civil service content with which the Order had to deal and he said that he and his colleagues would be judged or condemned by the manner with which they disposed of the human problem. I call that to the attention of the Chief Secretary.
I wish to ask the Chief Secretary why in paragraph 27 there is selected for the purpose of a kind of disciplinary authority which is to decide when pensions are to be paid, discontinued, suspended or forfeited under the provisions of Section 30(1) of the Order, the Chief Pensions Officer of Southern Rhodesia?
Section 27 reads:There is hereby established a Central African Pension Agency (hereinafter referred to as 'the Pension Agency') which shall consist of the officer for the time being performing the functions of Pensions Officer of the Government of Southern Rhodesia".1158 Here we have some kind of disciplinary agency which is to have jurisdiction under Section 30 to award or to decide on forfeitures of pension. I should like to know the thinking behind the decision to embody in Section 27 a requirement thatthe officer for the time being performing the functions of Pensions Officer of the Government of Southern Rhodesiaand not of any other territory should be the officer suitable for the purpose of exercising that apparently disciplinary jurisdiction. The Chief Secretary will know without my reminding him that there can be a particularly unpleasant and sinister connotation in that arrangement, and I should like him to deal with it
I have asked a number of questions and I notice that there has been a considerable amount of colloquy between the Official Box and the Chief Secretary. If he would like me to go on talking while he nourishes himself with the necessary information, I will do so, but it seems to me from the whispering which has been going on and the emphasis with which it has been pumped into his ear that he must be ready to answer now. I will accordingly resume my seat in the knowledge that I will receive the help which the House always gets from the Chief Secretary.
§ 8.27 p.m.
§ The Chief Secretary to the Treasury and Paymaster-General (Mr. John Boyd-Carpenter)
I am obliged to the right hon. and learned Member for Newport (Sir F. Soskice) for his concluding observations. He asked a number of detailed questions on the Order. As I knew that he wanted answers to them, I have done my best to obtain them for him.
May I begin by agreeing with the first half of the right hon. and learned Member's opening sentence? I agree with him entirely that the Order is a great deal more than a lengthy collection of technical provisions. As he said, it marks a turning point in history. However, I differ from him—and I do not want to spend time reviving old controversies, but I must challenge what he said—when he referred to the initiation of the Federation as a Conservative mistake. I do not so see it. I see it as a daring experiment in trying to bring about in 1159 Central Africa a new political structure embodying many races and giving very considerable opportunities for economic advance.
Although, tonight, we are dealing with its winding up, which is for me a very sad occasion, the fact remains that remarkable economic progress was made in the three territories during the Federation's lifetime which in some measure, I think, gave justification to the high hopes of those who were concerned with founding it. Whether one says, "I told you so" or not, the failure of at any rate some of those hopes gives no pleasure to any hon. Member.
My duty, as I see it, in intervening in this debate is to deal predominantly with the financial issues which have occupied a good deal of the House's time today. I begin by referring to a number of the points raised by the right hon. and learned Member for Newport. He spent a certain amount of time, as did one or two of his hon. Friends, in discussing the disposal of the armed forces of the Federation. He made a remark which, I hope, will be noted in those columns of the public Press that note these things—that there is no difficulty in calling an aeroplane an aeroplane. There is, however, difficulty when the Order is not dealing with aeroplanes, because the division of the armed forces of the Federation was dealt with by an agreement between the territories made at the end of September.
The Liquidating Agency, on the other hand, is concerned with the distribution of assets upon which agreement was not reached before dissolution. That also answers the complaint of one or two hon. Members against my right hon. Friend that in his opening speech he did not refer to the break-up and distribution of the Federal armed forces. He did not do so for the very good reason that they are not dealt with in the Order. They were dealt with—I hope that having said that, I am not going straight out of order, but I hope that this will be helpful to the House—in a conference at the end of September and a public communiqué, of which I have a copy, was issued to the Press in Salisbury on 11th October dealing in some detail with the matter. I need only add that this resulted from 1160 an agreement between the territorial Governments.
Although it is true, as the right hon. and learned Gentleman and one other hon. Member said, that Mr. Kaunda subsequently expressed disquiet about certain aspects of these arrangements, that does not detract from the fact that this distribution is based upon an agreement between the Governments concerned. I understand that it is not dealt with in tonight's Order.
§ Mr. Mendelson
Would it not be the duty of the Secretary of State, and now of the Chief Secretary, in replying, to give us information on the attitude of Her Majesty's Government to the point of view expressed by Mr. Kaunda?
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
No, I do not think so. This is not dealt with in the Order. It results from an agreement made some months ago and I do not think that I am called upon to comment upon the observations of a distinguished African statesman.
§ Mr. G. M. Thomson
Does the right hon. Gentleman recall that the former First Secretary, in the debate on Second Reading, gave his right hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) assurances that all the major questions of sharing the assets of the Federation would be brought before the House for affirmative procedure by the House? We certainly took that assurance to mean that we would be informed about the arrangements for the sharing out of the defence provisions and that we would have an opportunity to discuss them. Is this not a clear breach of an undertaking given by the former First Secretary?
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
I do not think so. This distribution resulted, I understand, from an agreement between the Governments concerned. I cannot see that there is anything inconsistent with what my right hon. Friend said in what has happened. I do not take the point against the right hon. and learned Member for Newport and his hon. Friends that he did not have this particularly in mind, because I sympathise with him in the difficulty in which, to some extent, we are all placed owing to the shortage of time which we have to deal with this matter.
1161 I should like, however, to say a word about that and the reason for it. To go back to the Victoria Falls Conference, the target which was set was to complete the dissolution of the Federation by the end of this year. If that target is to be achieved, it is necessary for the House to pass the Order before we adjourn for the Christmas Recess. It is important that that target should be maintained.
Whatever views one takes, whether one takes the view of the right hon. and learned Gentleman that the Federation should never have been created or the view, held by many of my right hon. and hon. Friends and myself, that this was a fine experiment well worth making, one thing upon which, I should have thought, we could all agree was that having decided on dissolution, no good purpose is served by dragging out the process. Inevitably, new policies and developments must be to some extent inhibited while one Government is coming to the end of its days and new ones have not yet taken over.
It must, surely, be in the interests of all three territories of the present Federation that the decision having been taken, we should not allow the complications of our own parliamentary timetable further to delay it and, in particular, to delay it beyond the target. I say for myself and, I am sure, for my right hon. Friend that we very much regret causing inconvenience to the House or to the right hon. and learned Gentleman. We like—Iam sure that it is the right way to treat the House—to make sure that the facts and details are as fully as possible before the House when considering these matters. I add my regrets to those of my right hon. Friend, but the really inescapable problems of the timetable and the true interests of the territories which we are all trying to serve tonight are best met by seeking to adhere to the target date.
§ Mr. J. Griffiths
The right hon. Gentleman will appreciate that the question of distribution of the armed forces has caused concern not only in the territories, but elsewhere in Africa. Was there any consultation with African countries of the Commonwealth, or with other Commonwealth countries, before this was decided?
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
This distribution was not effected by Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom but by agreement of the territories concerned. That is the basis of it. I think that the right hon. Gentleman is really asking us to interfere in a matter between the territories.
§ Mr. G. M. Thomson
The right hon. Gentleman is quite wrong about this. The division of the armed forces was an agreement between Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom and the Government of Southern Rhodesia with, it is said, the associated agreement of the other territories. Her Majesty's Government are directly involved in this. May we now have an answer to my question as to whether, in the normal way of Commonwealth consultations about changes in defence arrangements, there was prior consultation with Commonwealth countries on this distribution, particularly with those in Africa?
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
The hon. Gentleman is getting the matter on the wrong basis. This was an agreement between the territories concerned and it lies outside the Order, which deals with the inheritance of the assets of the Federation. I think that this House will accept that the views of those concerned with the inheritance of the assets of the Federation are the ones by which we should be guided. This really is not the kind of change in defence arrangements about which Commonwealth consultations generally take place.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman asked a number of questions about public service pensioners. He asked whether the Federal Public Service Asosciation had had opportunities to put its point of view. I understand that it did, and that it put it in some detail to Committee A during discussions in Salisbury.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman also asked why the Pension Agency is in Salisbury and suggested that it is a disciplinary body. I understand that it is not a disciplinary body but simply a paying agency which, for convenience, is placed in the town which, after all, was the Federal capital.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman asked many questions about the Liquidating Agency which appears in the 1163 Order. I think that it may help if I explain that the Agency is the servant of the three successor Governments. It consists, for ordinary working purposes, of the Permanent Secretaries of the three Treasuries, acting by agreement on behalf of their Governments. I hope that the right hon. and learned Gentleman is now reassured about it.
I want to come now to one or two broader aspects. I want, first, to take issue with my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Lewes (Sir T. Beamish). This dissolution was not the result of a policy decision by Her Majesty's Government. It is, in truth and in fact, the result of a decision by two of the territories that they wished to leave the Federation. Legally, of course, United Kingdom legislation is necessary, but the substantive decision was taken in Africa. Our concern throughout these anxious months has been to secure that the decision takes effect in an orderly fashion, with a proper transitional period, and that in the process neither the economies of the territories nor the interests of individuals are damaged.
I think that hon. Members on both sides of the House would wish me to pay tribute in this respect to the untiring efforts of my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary. The way in which he handled the apparently insoluble problems involved in the dissolution of the Federation made a major contribution to this incredibly difficult operation's being conducted as successfully and as smoothly as it looks like being. During these months we have concentrated our efforts on trying to build the foundations of inter-territorial co-operation. The co-operation between the two Rhodesias on the great Kariba scheme, co-operation on the railways and co-operation of all three territories in an air corporation are all fruits of this hard work. So are the steps already taken for the orderly setting up of central banks and the resettlement of the Federal public service and the handing of the Federal public debt.
There again, I think that I would carry the House with me in paying tribute to two gentlemen who have taken part in these discussions. Sir George Curtis, the Chairman of Committee A, whose infinite patience in sorting out these 1164 complicated issues played a great part in bringing them to solution, and Mr. Norman Ritchie, a London accountant who went out to preside over one of the very difficult sub-committees.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman asked on what principle the liabilities were distributed. The principle applied has been that the liabilities should be distributed in the same way as the assets. That is to say, where there are specific physical assets in a territory which on dissolution go to that territory, then the liability incurred in respect of the creation of those assets is attached to that territory. Where we are concerned not with specific assets, the same proportion in which the investment generally has taken place has been applied in the distribution of the liabilities. It is that which leads to the admittedly rather complicated figures to two places of decimals to which the right hon. and learned Gentleman very amusingly referred. I think that the House will think that it is a fair principle that liabilities should follow assets.
I now come to the Federal public servants. As the hon. Member for Dundee, East said, there are about 35,000, predominantly Asian and African, and I am glad to say that it appears to be clear that at least 34,000 of them are likely to enter the service of the territories. The terms of transition have been devised to cover three categories—those who enter the service of the territories, those for whom, and I am glad to say that they seem likely to be very few, places in the service of the territories cannot be found, and those for whom places can be found, but who do not wish to avail themselves of them.
The terms which have been worked out—and the Federal Public Service Association has been heard on this matter—are fair and reasonable. However, the right hon. and learned Gentleman and other hon. Members, including some of my hon. Friends, referred to hard cases and to hardship cases. I can tell the House what the position in respect of them now is. Discussions among the Governments are going on and, if agreement can be reached, we think that it would be appropriate to set up a Commissioner to consider individual cases of hardship 1165 and to advise on the making of lump sum payments which could be financed out of the dissolution costs. Whether this is attainable depends, of course, on the agreement of the other Governments, but in our view it would be a reasonable method of handling the matter.
I should add that the pension entitlements of retired public servants have been improved by a concession by which their pensions will be calculated on their last year of service and not, as is normal, on the last three years. That is perhaps more significant than it sounds on first hearing, because very recently there has been a substantial increase in the pay of Federal public servants and that increase will now be reflected in the pension arrangements which are secured under the scheme. Subject to the hard cases which we are discussing, I do not think that that is an unreasonable settlement.
The hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. G. M. Thomson) asked about the University at Salisbury. It is a very interesting and impressive university. Its future must depend on whether or not it is possible to get inter-territorial use for it. To get the other territories concerned in sending students there is plainly a matter for negotiation between the three territorial Governments when they are in position.
I come now to the issue on which a great part of the debate has turned, that of Federal stock. I wholly share the view of my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, South (Mr. W. Clark) that this matter, like all our dealings, should be conducted on the basis of the highest financial integrity. I am sure that it is in our interests to maintain that, and the House will never hear a Treasury Minister utter any views to the contrary. It is essential to our own interests as the greatest financial centre in the world, and it is essential, too, as several hon. Members have said, from the point of view of future financing of Commonwealth development.
I hope to show that what is proposed is consistent, and consistent only, with the highest financial integrity. I take great exception to any suggestion to the contrary, and I fully share the view of my hon. Friends of the crucial importance of maintaining, sustaining, and improving confidence in the London 1166 market and in the financial dealings of Her Majesty's Government.
My hon. Friend the Member for Windsor (Sir C. Mott-Radclyffe), I hope light-heartedly, referred to the possibility that if my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies and I were in the commercial sphere we might find ourselves in an open prison. I am obliged to my hon. Friend for small mercies. I understand from my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary that open prisons are places to which misdemeanants of the highest character are allotted.
I should like to go into the issue a little more fully. I think that it is important to get clear the position of these stocks issued either by the territories before federation, or by the Federation itself during its life. In a number of speeches a good deal of emphasis was laid on the fact that some of the stocks were raised in London, and that in many cases the help of the Government broker, of the Bank of England, or of the Crown Agent for the Colonies, was invoked. That is the general basis on which Colonial stocks generally are raised, and have been raised, and it is no doubt very helpful to the Commonwealth territories concerned to have skilled technical assistance in the placing of their loans.
Though it has been suggested outside, I was glad to note that no hon. Member today suggested that that practice or procedure of itself constituted, in the strict sense, a British Government guarantee. Indeed, my hon. Friend the Member for Middleton and Prestwich (Sir J. Barlow) made it clear that it did nothing of the sort. I want to get this absolutely clear by quoting from the prospectus of the 6 per cent. Stock, 1978–1981. Paragraph 6 says:The stock and interest thereon are charged upon and payable out of the general revenue and assets of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland, which alone are liable in respect of the Stock and the interest thereon. The Consolidated Fund of the United Kingdom and the Commissioners of Her Majesty's Treasury are not directly or indirectly liable or responsible for the payment of the Stock or of the interest thereon, or for any matter relating thereto.Therefore, those outside who have alleged that this procedure involves some form of British Government guarantee, plainly cannot have had their attention 1167 drawn to the blunt and explicit terms of the prospectus. I hope that I do not need to say to the House that this necessary exposition of the legal position does not amount to any attempt to disinterest ourselves in the future of the stock or those who have invested in it. I shall say something more about that before I finish. I think it fair to us, in view of the allegations made outside, to get that aspect of the matter clearly on the record.
There is no legal guarantee, but the argument has been adduced that the dissolution by this Order of the Federation gives the stockholders a less good security than they otherwise would have had and that therefore Her Majesty's Government should in one way or another come to their assistance. The argument is that the three territories are not of themselves separately as good a security as was the Federation. That, perhaps, is arguable, although I do not want—I do not think anyone wants—to say anything in this House which could endanger in any way the credit standing of any of the territories. It is probably very doubtfully true in respect of the very prosperous territories of Northern and Southern Rhodesia. Nyasaland is a special case if taken by itself, but, as I shall make clear, Her Majesty's Government recognise special responsibility for helping that territory.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said in his speech that on this argument of a less good security it was not fair to make a comparison between the Federation as it was and the territories as they will be, but that the fair comparison in assessing the responsibility of Her Majesty's Government was between the Federation as it would be if we were not putting this Order forward and the territories as they will be if we do. Although one of my hon. Friends indicated, in his habitually vigorous way, dissent from that proposition, I think that there is a great deal to be said for it. The House has only to envisage what would be the position of the Federation if we were not taking this action, the Federation two of whose members have declared their desire to depart from it.
It is, of course, the fact that constitutional changes can be thought, rightly 1168 or wrongly—I express no opinion on that—to cause stockholders to feel that the value of their security has changed. There is nothing peculiar to the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland in that fact. Although I do not want to labour the point, that is reflected by the prices at which other colonial stocks, issued by countries which have recently become self-governing or are proceeding to self-government, now stand.
The point has been made forcibly in this House today that this case is distinguishable from those because in the other cases it is a transfer of liability from a Government controlled from Whitehall to an independent Government but still the same Government in the strict sense, and that here the process is admittedly more complicated in that we are transferring the liability from one Government to three.
That is a perfectly fair point to make and I accept from my hon. Friends that it introduces an element of distinction. The question is: how big an element of distinction does it introduce? The general principle is that those who invest in colonial stocks—and, of course, get from that investment a bigger return on their money than if they invested in the stocks of the United Kingdom Government—contemplate when they do so the possibility of constitutional change which may improve or may diminish the value of their security. That is inherent in the type of stock.
The question here is whether the additional factor of three separate successor Governments involves a difference, not merely of degree—I think it does—but of kind and principle between that transition and the other transitions which are taking place throughout the Commonwealth today. It is fair to say, because reference has been made to the stock market, that the stock market does not appear to think that that distinction is very profound. Indeed, the leading Federal stock today stands at a yield slightly lower than that of the comparable stocks of several East African Governments. This is significant. I accept that it involves for the shareholder, particularly the small shareholder, very particular detailed problems and that, therefore, that should be a matter of very special concern to us.
1169 I will deal in passing with the example which my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, South quoted from the Newfoundland case. As I see it, that case cuts against his argument rather than in favour of it. It is true that in the 1930s we gave a guarantee of Newfoundland Government stock, but the circumstances, of that guarantee were that we were taking over the Government of Newfoundland. We were, in fact, assuming responsibility, very necessarily in the light of the situation then developing, for the affairs of that country. In those circumstances, as we were taking over the finances of Newfoundland, it was reasonable that, as stockholders would be exposed to the results of our administration, good or bad, we should guarantee the stock. It does not seem to me to be an example where, as here, we are passing from one Government to three.
The practical point that troubles people is the future prospects of these territories. There, I think that we can help. We have come to an understanding with Northern Rhodesia and Southern Rhodesia in identical terms and, as this has not so far been published in this country, as I understand, I should like to take this opportunity of giving it to the House. We have stated this:Her Majesty's Government will be ready to enter into discussions as soon as may be conveniently possible with the specific object of establishing, in the light of the nature and extent of the financial burdens assumed by"—then either "Southern Rhodesia" or "Northern Rhodesia" in accordance with which text one is using—and the resources available to meet them, the reasonable needs of the territory and the means whereby the burdens might be lightened, including British aid where necessary in accordance with Mr. Butler's undertaking in paragraph 27 of the Victoria Falls Report.I should like to add a word about Nyasaland which, as I said a moment or two ago, is in a special position. We had, previously to what I have said about our arrangement with the Rhodesias, reached a similar understanding with Nyasaland. Discussions have, in fact, been in train for some time about this latter territory's financial position. These discussions have not yet been concluded, but I can tell the House that we have in mind the provision of a substantial amount of aid to Nyasaland 1170 for some years to come, both in balancing her budget as well as for capital development.
I would like in this connection to pay a short tribute to the manner in which the Nyasaland Government are assuming their responsibilities. I had the pleasure of seeing Dr. Banda in London a few weeks ago, and I was very much impressed by his appreciation of the need of his country to attract capital for investment for development and of the kind of conditions which would help to that effect. I was glad, as I am sure the House was, to see the extremely responsible speech which he made to his own people on his return to that country.
§ Mr. G. M. Thomson
I thank the Chief Secretary for giving the House this very important information. I welcome the announcement, in particular, about Nyasaland. However, I must ask him whether he is aware that there will be concern on this side of the House about financial arrangements in regard to Southern Rhodesia that are not associated with an attempt to persuade the Southern Rhodesians to have a more liberal Constitution. Would he therefore undertake that any arrangements that are being discussed with the Southern Rhodesians are fully announced to the House so that we have an opportunity to discuss the implications?
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
I am not sure that in this context the concept of aid with strings is a particularly attractive one. What I am dealing with concerns, in terms of the break-up of the Federation and all the financial consequences, the attitude which we propose to adopt towards the constituent territories. It would be wrong for me to allow myself to be led by the hon. Member into quite different issues which do not arise on this Order and which—as the hon. Member may himself feel, on reflection—might well be far from serving the ends that he has in mind.
On the question of the stock, a good deal of alarm was caused by a circular which was sent to stockholders by the Federal Ministry of Finance in Salisbury last month. It was sent to individual stockholders. Apparently it was not published, and it was certainly not con- 1171 veyed to us. It contains one statement, which has been quoted. On page 2, in paragraph 5, it says thatthe representatives of the British Government have stated that their Government will not join in any action designed to preserve the value of the investment.I do not know for what reason or purpose that statement has been made. It is not true—and its lack of truth is demonstrated not merely by words, but by deeds, by the great care which this Government have taken, and by the hard work they have done, through their officers, during many weary weeks, to secure a proper settlement of the issue of the debt and of the stockholders' position. I take this opportunity of disavowing as firmly as I can the truth of that statement.
I want to add a word about our attitude. I see no reason to doubt the intention and determination of the territories—if only in their own interests—to honour their obligations to the stockholders. It will clearly be of the utmost importance to each of the territories to build up its own credit standing. The physical assets on which the credit of the Federation has rested—the mines, the farms, and so on—will still be there.
With this in mind, I would not feel justified in giving any sort of assurance which might appear to single out the Central African Governments, and to imply that here is any reason for supposing that they are lacking in the will or the capacity to meet the debt obligations which they have now accepted, or that their credit needs some special measure of reinforcement by Her Majesty's Government. The territorial Governments might understandably resent being singled out as the target for any such statement, and the stockholders might, on reflection, feel that a Government statement of this kind was not really in their own best interests.
Her Majesty's Government are, however, fully mindful of the interests of British overseas investors generally. No Department, naturally, is more conscious of the importance of these investments than the Treasury, which has to keep a constant watch on all matters affecting our balance of payments, to which the holdings of the stocks are relevant.
1172 As practical evidence of the Government's concern, we sent out a senior Treasury official to take part, over a period of several months, in discussions in Salisbury on arrangements for the dissolution of the Federation. One of his main objects was to do his best, together with the representatives of the other Governments concerned, to see that a clear understanding was reached over the apportionment of future responsibility for the Federal Public Debt.
The British Government are always concerned to see that British overseas investors throughout the world receive fair treatment, and it is our policy, should the need arise, to support with our best endeavours British investors' legitimate claims. Our ability to do so should not be under-rated.
Moreover, as was stated at the Victoria Falls Conference—the Report of which was published as a White Paper, Cmnd. 2093—the basis of apportionment of the Federal debt does not prejudge consideration at a later stage of the capacity of the three territories to carry the burden. As I have said, understandings have been reached with the Territorial Governments to enter into discussion about the economic position of each of them as a whole, including, of course, its debt burden.
I think that in those circumstances there may well be some reassurance to those who have been, justifiably and understandably—Imake no complaint of it—worried by a change of this, in some ways, unprecedented nature. In passing from that I would add one final word. As I said at the beginning, this is a sad occasion, a formal burial of high hopes nourished ten years ago. But yet, as I have tried to say, the Federation has served some considerable purpose. It has seen great economic progress. It has seen the average income of its population, European and African, rise, that of the African from a very low level and, by proportion, by a higher amount than the European. It has seen the national income of the territories rise. It has seen great progress.
We have tried to the best of our endeavour to secure that the necessary changes took place with the minimum interference to that process of development. As a result the three territories go forward to being separate territories, 1173 not badly equipped for their task, and conscious, as I hope they are, of the warm and continuing friendship of the Government and people of this country. We wish them well.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ That the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland (Dissolution) Order in Council 1963, a draft of which was laid before this House on 10th December, be approved.